Former President Barack Obama’s EPA used a social media platform to secretly promote the agency’s policies in violation of federal law, according to a conservative watchdog group in Washington, D.C.And there's the violation "the agency's proposal" is what they are not legally permitted to publicly advertise and propagandize for. However, I'm sure that the sanctions under law are weak, and it's very unlikely that any actions will be taken. But they should try.
Judicial Watch obtained 900 pages of documents Monday showing the EPA used social media to lobby support for the Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule. The agency used Thunderclap, a platform that shares messages across Facebook and Twitter, to recruit outside groups to generate support for various environmental policies.
Federal law prohibits agencies from engaging in propaganda. It also forbids agencies from using federal resources to conduct grassroots campaigns that prod U.S. citizens into browbeating lawmakers to act on pending legislation.
“I don’t want it to look like EPA used our own social media accounts to reach our support goal,” former EPA Director of Web Communications Jessica Orquina wrote in an email in 2014 to Karen Wirth, an EPA team leader in the Office of Ground Water and Drinking Water.
Judicial Watch obtained the email records through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit after the EPA failed to respond to a FOIA request in May.
The covert campaign began when Travis Loop, the EPA’s director of communications for water, wrote in a Sept. 9, 2014 email to Gary Belan, senior director for the organization American Rivers, that the agency was pursuing a new strategy to defend WOTUS from critics.
“EPA is planning to use a new social media application called Thunderclap to provide a way for people to show their support for clean water and the agency’s proposal to protect it,” Loop wrote at the time before explaining how the ploy works.
“If 500 or more people sign up to participate, the message will be posted on everyone’s walls and feeds at the same time. But if fewer than 500 sign up, nothing happens. So, it is important to both sign up and encourage others to do so,” he added.In Chesapeake Bay, they have a slightly different work around. EPA and NOAA shovel money to the Bay Journal, a nominally independent news producer, which is, in fact, a reliable shill for the agencies. Recently, the new leadership at EPA threatened to withhold their cut, prompting the usual suspects to cry out loud.
Loop then contacted Orquina in a Sept. 10 email of that year to ask her how to rope other agencies into the scheme.
“What’s the best way to get the other agencies to sign up for the Thunderclap and promote on social media? Interior, USGS, NOAA, etc. I was going to tweet at them to join the Thunderclap, but thought maybe you had thoughts on that and maybe a more direct line,” he asked.