WASHINGTON (AP) — The Environmental Protection Agency used public money to hire a private media firm with strong Republican ties to help produce a report promoting Administrator Scott Pruitt’s first-year accomplishments.
Records show EPA paid $6,500 last month Go Big Media Inc. for work related to “design, graphics, production and edits of the EPA end of year report.” Go Big was founded by Republican political strategist Phillip Stutts and counts GOP candidates and conservative groups among its clients.
The 37-page report issued by the agency earlier this week references Pruitt by name 214 times. Of the two dozen photos included in the document, 20 include the administrator, a Republican who previously served that the elected attorney general of Oklahoma.
EPA spokesman Jahan Wilcox defended the contract.
“We had two options: one vendor was $29,140 and the other was $6,500, but ultimately this document was made in-house,” Wilcox said.
It is at least the second time in the last year that EPA has hired a Republican-affiliated firm to assist its public affairs efforts.
In December, EPA pulled out of a $120,000 no-bid contract with Definers Public Affairs, a Virginia public relations firm founded by former Republican campaign operatives that specializes in opposition research on its clients’ political opponents and corporate rivals. The New York Times reported that a senior vice president at the firm had filed at least 40 requests under the Freedom of Information Act, many of them seeking emails and other records from EPA employees who have spoken out against Pruitt’s regulatory rollbacks.
Wilcox said the Go Big contract, which was first reported by E&E News, “pales in comparison” to the $568,000 paid under the Obama administration to Strategies 360, a public relations firm co-founded by a former Democratic campaign manager.
In that case, the firm was hired by the Swinomish Indian Tribe, which received a portion of an EPA grant to the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission to help educate the public about clean water initiatives in Puget Sound. A subsequent review by EPA’s Inspector General concluded last year that the payment to Strategies 360 did not violate federal lobbying prohibitions.
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