EDF Files FOIA Request and Asks Inspector General to Investigate EPA’s $120,000 No-Bid Contract with Partisan Firm

On December 19th,  Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) submitted a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Inspector General asking for an investigation into the agency’s troubling decision to award a $120,000 no-bid contract to Definers Public Affairs Corporation, a partisan political consulting firm. EDF simultaneously filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request with EPA seeking agency records relating to the agreement with Definers.
EPA signed the no-bid contract with Definers earlier this month, then abruptly canceled it today in the face of critical media reports. Given the appearance that improper motives influenced EPA’s contract award, EDF’s FOIA request asks for EPA records related to Definers and associated group America Rising to bring to light EPA’s rationale for awarding the contract on a noncompetitive basis.
EDF’s FOIA request details the reasons why the circumstances surrounding the contract must be investigated further:
“The connections among Administrator Pruitt, EPA, America Rising, and Definers Corp. raise serious questions about potential misuse of resources and abuse of power by leadership of EPA … The American people rely on EPA to protect their health and environment — a mission with life-or-death consequences. The revelations about Definers Corp. and America Rising raise the specter that knowledgeable, skilled EPA employees are being intimidated. This risks silencing employees who identify real public health and environmental threats — and pressuring out dedicated public servants who keep Americans safe.”
Definers was founded by Republican political operatives who also founded America Rising Corporation – a conservative political action committee.
A senior official working at both organizations has filed numerous FOIA requests seeking emails of EPA employees as part of a self-described “fishing expedition” for damaging information.
Definers and America Rising have frequently sought to support EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt and his policies, and have attacked his critics. Among other things, an America Rising affiliate launched a now-defunct website to support Pruitt’s Senate confirmation as EPA Administrator.
EDF’s letter to the EPA Inspector General urges an investigation into the possibility that EPA engaged in “waste, fraud, and abuse” in awarding this contract, given Definers’ alarmingly clear political associations, links to organizations that have supported Pruitt, and connections to what appear to be attempts to intimidate EPA employees.
Any connection between EPA and Definers’ Senior Vice President Allan Blutstein also warrants scrutiny to assess whether agency resources were abused – to facilitate identification of EPA staff members to target with FOIA requests, to assign favorable treatment to Blutstein’s FOIA submissions, or for other inappropriate activities.
“The American public deserves to know whether EPA inappropriately entered into a no-bid contract with Definers and whether the agency’s interactions with Definers was used to intimidate hard-working staff who are implementing EPA’s mission of protecting human health and the environment,” said EDF Senior Attorney Martha Roberts.

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