The American Democracy Legal Fund has filed a complaint against Scott Pruitt, Administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency for violating the Antideficiency Act by misusing the taxpayer funds that support the EPA. Pruitt made clear appeals pertaining to legislation, both already pending and which a reasonable person would expect to be introduced, that were unlawful ‘grassroots lobbying’ and ‘publicity or propaganda’ communications during public interviews and according to news reports of closed doors meetings. There is no evidence of either Pruitt or the agency making any attempt to dispute or correct those reports.
As recently as 2015, a similar complaint resulted in the Comptroller General finding the EPA in violation of section 715’s prohibition on grassroots lobbying.
The complaint against Pruitt in his role at the EPA details unethical violations of the following laws:
Section 715 of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2017 provides that:
No part of any funds appropriated in this or any other Act shall be used by an agency of the executive branch other than for normal and recognized executive-legislative relationships, for publicity or propaganda purposes, and for the preparation, distribution or use of any kit, pamphlet, booklet, publication, radio, television, or film presentation designed to support or defeat legislation pending before the Congress, except in presentation to the Congress itself.
Additionally, section 401 of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2017 provides that:
No part of any appropriation contained in this Act shall be available for any activity or the publication or distribution of literature that in any way tends to promote public support or opposition to any legislative proposal on which Congressional action is not complete other than to communicate with Members of Congress as described in 18 U.S.C. [§] 1913. 19
Section 718 of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2017 provides that:
“[n]o part of any appropriation contained in this or any other Act shall be used directly or indirectly, including by a private contractor, for publicity or propaganda purposes within the United States not heretofore authorized by Congress.” 30 One form of communication restricted under section 718—covert propaganda—is at issue here. 31
“Scott Pruitt misused the taxpayer money that funds the EPA and the powers of his office with his illegal lobbying activities. Worse, Pruitt’s was lobbying congress against a climate treaty that would improve global health, and which withdrawing from is likely going to result in job – killing tariffs on American companies who export goods to nations remaining in the agreement,” said Brad Woodhouse of ADLF.
The complaint is available here. The American Democracy Legal Fund holds candidates for office accountable for possible ethics and/or legal violations. It is run by Brad Woodhouse.