E&C Dems Question Pruitt About Troubling Outside Employment Approved for EPA Political Appointees
Washington, D.C. – Energy and Commerce Committee Democratic leaders sent a letter to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt today regarding serious concerns of impartiality of current EPA political appointees, and to request additional information regarding appointees engaged in outside activity for compensation. The letter was signed by Ranking Member Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Ranking Member Diana DeGette (D-CO), full Committee Vice Ranking Member Kathy Castor (D-FL) and Environment Subcommittee Ranking Member Paul Tonko (D-NY).
According to Agency records, several current EPA political appointees have received approval from EPA’s Alternate Designated Agency Ethics official to engage in outside activity for compensation. The documents, which redact potentially vital information, were received by the Committee as a partial response to a July 13, 2017 letter from Pallone to Pruitt.
One of the employees who received approval for outside employment was John Konkus, who worked at a Republican political consulting firm before becoming EPA’s Deputy Associate Administrator for the Office of Public Affairs. Konkus was approved to provide “consultative media advice” to likely clients whose names are redacted from the document. Konkus was the subject of a September 2017 letter from the Democrats to Pruitt following reports by the Washington Post and E&E News that he may have cancelled EPA grants based on political motivations.
“A political appointee cutting millions of dollars in funding to EPA grant recipients on what appears to be a politically motivated basis, while at the same time being authorized to serve as a paid media consultant to unnamed outside clients, raises serious concerns of potential conflicts of interest,” the four Democrats wrote to Administrator Pruitt.
Konkus’ previous employer lists on its website services such as campaign advertisement production, direct mail, and media buying and includes “Donald Trump for President, Inc.” as one of the firm’s premiere clients.
The EPA records further indicate that another current EPA political appointee, Patrick Davis, was approved to engage in outside activity for compensation as the sales director for Telephone Town Hall Meeting, and was affirmatively permitted to “solicit prospective clients” on his own time. Davis serves as a senior advisor for public engagement to the Regional Administrator in EPA’s Denver office, while at the same time owning a Republican political consulting firm based in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
“Mr. Davis’ simultaneous roles as an EPA senior advisor for public engagement and a sales director for Telephone Town Hall Meeting serve to create possible confusion among stakeholders and raises further concerns of potential conflicts of interest,” the four Democrats wrote to Administrator Pruitt. “We believe it is critical that EPA political appointees serve the public trust above private gain and in an unbiased and impartial manner.”
The Democrats are requesting information and documents be provided by EPA no later than March 19, 2018, including:
- A list of all EPA political appointees, including individuals occupying Administratively Determined appointments, who have received approval to engage in outside activity for compensation.
- Where EPA has granted an appointee approval, provide a non-redacted copy of the memorandum of approval authorizing any outside activity.
- Where EPA has authorized an appointee to conduct outside activity, provide a non-redacted list naming and describing each authorized client.
The Democrats’ letter is available HERE.