Tax-paid Republican opposition research group has been spying on EPA employees for a year
On Friday, I took note of an investigative piece written by three Mother Jones’ reporters about Definers Group, a Republican opposition research firm hired for $120,000 with a no-bid contract by the Environmental Protection Agency to “track and shape press coverage of the agency.”
As it turns out, that’s not all the group is doing. Founded by Matt Rhoades, Mitt Romney’s 2012 campaign manager, and Joe Pounder, another longtime Republican operative, Definers has for the past year been investigating EPA employees critical of the Trump regime, according to Eric Lipton and Lisa Freedman at The New York Times. They report:
A vice president for the firm, Allan Blutstein, federal records show, has submitted at least 40 Freedom of Information Act requests to the E.P.A. since President Trump was sworn in. Many of those requests target employees known to be questioning management at the E.P.A. since Scott Pruitt, the agency’s administrator, was confirmed.
Mr. Blutstein, in an interview, said he was taking aim at “resistance” figures in the federal government, adding that he hoped to discover whether they had done anything that might embarrass them or hurt their cause. [...]
The requests focused on agency employees like Michael Cox, who worked in the E.P.A.’s Seattle office and had sent a retirement notice in March to colleagues that raised questions about Mr. Pruitt’s management as well as agency employees who had participated in a public outreach program called “Why do you love the E.P.A.,” which tried to build support for maintaining the agency’s budget.
Pruitt, the EPA administrator who hates the EPA, wanted to chop the agency’s budget by 31 percent. Even congressional Republicans thought that went too far. But Pruitt is working hard to create the same effect as deep cuts with lax enforcement of agency rules. That has the obvious benefit of helping industrial polluters, at least some of whom were contributors to Trump’s campaign, and the obvious drawback of damaging the environment and potentially harming the health of people protected by rules, all of which have been developed after extensive study and public comments.
Charles Tiefer, who teaches contract law at the University of Baltimore, noted that the no-bid aspect of the contract with Definers Group seemed to indicate that the firm was hired solely for ideological reasons. “This has crony favoritism and bias written all over it,” he said. “This is not merely letting the fox into the henhouse. This is hiring, at a high price, the fox.”
Indeed. As we have seen, so very much of the Trump regime is populated by foxes, men and women whose chief reason for being hired is their hatred for the mission of the agencies and departments to which they have been appointed. As can be seen at EPA, any employees who object are being watched by an organization focused on curbing dissent and paid with our tax dollars.