President Barack Obama has another scandal on his hands that the media will conveniently ignore or bury in their news coverage. This scandal involves the Environmental Protection Agency breaking the law ... again.
The nonpartisan Government Accountability Office issued a report saying that the EPA broke the law by promoting its new "Waters of the United States" regulation through Thunderclap and a blog post written by Travis Loop, one of the agency's public affairs officers. The post linked to environmental activists groups and encouraged people to "tell Congress to stop interfering with your right to clean water."
"We conclude that EPA’s use of Thunderclap constituted covert propaganda, in violation of the publicity or propaganda prohibition," the GAO wrote. "We also conclude that EPA hyperlinks to the [Natural Resources Defense Council] and Surfrider Foundation webpages provided in the EPA blog post constitute grassroots lobbying, in violation of the grassroots lobbying prohibition."
According to The New York Times:
Federal agencies are allowed to promote their own policies, but are not allowed to engage in propaganda, defined as covert activity intended to influence the American public. They also are not allowed to use federal resources to conduct so-called grass-roots lobbying — urging the American public to contact Congress to take a certain kind of action on pending legislation.
It's pretty clear-cut that the EPA broke the law. But that hasn't stopped the EPA from trying to spin it.
"We maintain that using social media to educate the public about our work is an integral part of our mission," EPA spokeswoman Monica Lee told The Hill in the statement. "We have an obligation to inform all stakeholders about environmental issues and encourage participation in the rulemaking process. We use social media tools just like all organizations to stay connected and inform people across the country about our activities."
"We conclude that EPA’s use of Thunderclap constituted covert propaganda, in violation of the publicity or propaganda prohibition."
Government Accountability Office
The EPA's Thunderclap message read, "Clean water is important to me. I support E.P.A.’s efforts to protect it for my health, my family and my community." Thunderclap is a social media platform that amplifies tweets to increase the possibility of the tweet going viral, so by using it the EPA was trying to ensure that their water rule was promoted throughout the bowels of the Internet.
Here is how Loop concluded his blog post on the water regulation:
People often ask me about the best thing they can do for clean water. I say to spread the word about how much it matters to you and your family and friends. Here is an easy way to do that:
- Take a photo holding this #CleanWaterRules sign.
- Post it to Facebook, Twitter or Instagram with #CleanWaterRules and give your reason why.
- Encourage family and friends to do the same.
In both instances, anybody who is literate can see that the EPA is advocating in favor of their water regulation rather than simply informing people about it. The law was clearly broken.
Rick Moran at American Thinker pointed out that the EPA has broken the law three other times this year:
- The EPA collaborated with environmental advocacy groups to promote carbon regulations.
- The agency gave the green light to a pesticide–illegally.
- The EPA ironically polluted a river because of their meddling with a mine that caused a toxic spill.
The EPA's water regulation is also burdensome and doesn't fight against water pollution, according to Daren Bakst at The Daily Signal:
- The rule hurts the environment by keeping states from taking a leading role in water protection (contrary to the express language of the Clean Water Act).
- The rule is an attack on property rights by making it more difficult for property owners to use their property even for ordinary activities, such as farming.
- The rule is so vague that property owners may not even know they could be violating the law.
- The opposition to the rule (based on various reasons) is wide and diverse and comes from farmers, ranchers, manufacturers,small businesses, counties, and home builders. Attorneys general and agencies from at least 31 states have sued the federal government over the rule. Even environmental groups have sued the federal government over the rule.
- The Corps itself was expressing serious concerns in memos to the EPA about the rule shortly before it was released.
- There are a lot more legal issues with the rule than EPA’s advocacy-related actions. The Sixth Circuit issued a stay in October blocking implementation of the rule, stating, “we conclude that petitioners have demonstrated a substantial possibility of success on the merits of their claims.” This stay though could always be lifted; after all, the Court hasn’t even decided whether it has jurisdiction to hear the case.
There are mainstream media news outlets that are reporting on the EPA's scandal–such as the Times and National Journal–but the bias in their reporting can be seen in how they bury it. The Times, for instance, had the EPA scandal story on the front page of their Dec.14 edition, but it was sandwiched in between two stories on the bottom half of the paper's front page. The headline used in the paper was "E.P.A. Faulted With Online Blitz On Water Rule," in between stories with the headlines "Muslim Youths in U.S. Feel Strain of Suspicion" and "Low Rates May Stay For Years After the Fed Reverses Course." The latter two stories easily received more space. The website version of the article now has the headline, "E.P.A. Broke Law With Social Media Push For Water Rule, Auditor Finds."
Most importantly, nowhere in the stories of the EPA in the Times, National Journal, ABC News, and the Associated Press do they hold the Obama administration accountable. They make reference to the water rule as the Obama administration's rule, but the scandal is the EPA's scandal and Obama himself is not questioned.