Inhofe, Roberts Request IG Investigation of EPA Funds on Anti-Farmer Campaign

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), chairman of the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee, and U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), chairman of the U.S. Senate Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry Committee, today sent a letter to Arthur A. Elkins, Jr., the inspector general of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), requesting an audit and investigation of an EPA grant to the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission used to support an anti-farmer advocacy campaign in Washington state.  The campaign included billboards and a website that support increased regulation of agriculture in Washington state.

“We are troubled to learn that EPA’s financial assistance appears to improperly fund an advocacy campaign in Washington state that unfairly targets and demonizes farmers and ranchers. According to a recent news report, the EPA-funded advocacy campaign includes multiple billboards, bus placards, and an interactive website urging the public to contact state lawmakers. The website assists the public in contacting lawmakers by providing a pre-written email criticizing the actions of agricultural producers and blaming them for polluting local waterways.  Further, the billboards and placards do not cite EPA as a funding source of the campaign.  According to an EPA Region 10 official, the failure to attribute EPA as the source of the funding ‘looks like a violation’,” the Senators said.

“It appears a large portion of the EPA financial assistance went to pay a public relations and lobbying firm, Strategies 360, to conduct an advocacy campaign called ‘What’s Upstream?’ in partnership with environmental activists, including Puget Soundkeeper Alliance and Western Environmental Law Center.”

“This Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission grant appears to be part of a broader war on farmers and rural communities that the Obama Administration, through the EPA, has been waging in concert with its allies in the environmental activist community.  It is imperative we learn whether EPA officials are turning a blind eye to this deceptive wrongdoing, and why the administration did not perform the necessary oversight to confirm taxpayer dollars are not mismanaged, and ensure well-established and important federal restrictions against lobbying are being followed,” the Senators concluded.

To read the full text of the letter, click here.

At the request of Inhofe, the Government Accountability Office issued a legal determination in December 2015 that found EPA had violated the Antideficiency Act and congressional bans against using federal funds for grassroots lobbying and covert propaganda.

To read the GAO decision in full, click here