Quantcast

Watchdog Group: EPA Sharing Pro-Trump Resignation Letter Violated Laws Against Campaigning on Public Dime

Politics
A view of the EPA headquarters on March 16, 2017 in Washington, DC. Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

The Office of Public Affairs for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) ran afoul of a law against campaigning when it made a resignation letter praising President Donald Trump available to the press, watchdog group Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) said Monday.

On Feb. 7, former Principal Deputy Administrator in the EPA's Office of Air and Radiation Mandy Gunasekara sent a letter to the president on official EPA stationary saying she was leaving to work educating the public about the successes of the Trump administration. This letter was then made available to reporters, the EPA confirmed to Government Executive.


"Ensuring eight years of your leadership is of utmost importance," she wrote.

PEER claims the press office's actions violated the Hatch Act, or An Act to Prevent Pernicious Political Activities, which mandates that civil servants not campaign on official time or with official resources. The organization sent a letter Monday to the Hatch Act Unit of the U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC) asking them to investigate the issue.

"By all appearances, EPA is illegally using taxpayer dollars to promote political propaganda," PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch said in a press release. "Unfortunately, EPA's Office of Public Affairs now operates like a political war room and seems to have lost sight of its public service obligations."

Gunasekara said in her letter to Trump that she was leaving to start an organization "built to defend you and the many energy, regulatory and economic successes of your administration." That organization, The Energy 45 Fund, is headquartered out of Gunasekara's home state of Mississippi, ThinkProgress reported. Both Gunasekara's letter and her organization's website criticize the Paris agreement and the emerging Green New Deal. Her letter warned of "dangerous rhetoric from the far-left supportive of Venezuelan-style socialism, government take-overs, and crony green new deals."

In their letter to the OSC, PEER said that Gunasekara's use of official letterhead would have been a violation of the Hatch Act had she not resigned. As is, they want an investigation into whether other officials, including Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler, who is awaiting Senate confirmation to run the agency permanently, could be held accountable. The letter explains:

"The employees within the EPA Office of Public Affairs who distributed or provided the letter to reporters also violated the Hatch Act because they are using official time and resources to engage in political activity. They remain on the federal payroll and are subject to penalties for Hatch Act violations.

In addition, acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler issued a statement about her departure, praising her work. This suggests that he had advance knowledge of the resignation and may have played a role in distributing the letter."

The EPA's press office defended itself in a statement to Government Executive, saying that it "has provided resignation letters and statements when asked by the press and with consent from former employees. Content of the resignation letters is the work of the former employees."

Show Comments ()

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Kissing bug. Pavel Kirillov / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirmed that the kissing bug, which can transmit a potentially deadly parasite, has spread to Delaware, ABC News reported Wednesday.

Read More Show Less
"Take the pledge today." Screenshot / StopFoodWasteDay.com

Did you know that more than a third of food is wasted or thrown away every year? And that only 25 percent of it would be enough to feed the 795 million undernourished people in the world? That's why today is Stop Food Waste Day, a chance to reflect on what you can do to waste less of the food you buy.

Stop Food Waste Day is an initiative of food service company Compass Group. It was launched first in the U.S, in 2017 and went global the year after, making today it's second worldwide celebration.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Pexels

By Franziska Spritzler, RD, CDE

Berries are among the healthiest foods you can eat.

Read More Show Less
Flames and smoke are seen billowing from the roof at Notre-Dame Cathedral on April 15 in Paris, France. Veronique de Viguerie / Getty Images

When Paris's Notre Dame caught fire on April 15, the flames threatened more than eight centuries of culture and history. The fire evoked shock, horror and grief worldwide. While the cathedral burned, French President Emmanuel Macron expressed determination to rebuild what the French regard as a sacred site.

Read More Show Less
An artist's impression of NASA's InSight lander on Mars. NASA / JPL-CALTECH

Scientists have likely detected a so-called marsquake — an earthquake on Mars — for the first time, The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) announced on Tuesday.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Hero Images / Getty Images

Across the political aisle, a majority of American parents support teaching climate change in schools even though most teachers currently do not.

Read More Show Less
Priit Siimon / flickr / cc

By Andrea Germanos

Lawyer and visionary thinker Polly Higgins, who campaigned for ecocide to be internationally recognized as a crime on par with genocide and war crimes, died Sunday at the age of 50.

She had been diagnosed with an aggressive cancer last month and given just weeks to live.

Read More Show Less
Pixabay

An E. coli outbreak linked to ground beef has spread to 10 states and infected at least 156 people, CNN reported Wednesday.

Read More Show Less