Conservative watchdog group Judicial Watch has uncovered new emails which prove the Environmental Protection Agency knowingly and willingly violated federal law when they used social media to attempt to change public opinion regarding the Waters of the United States Rule. The Government Accountability Office first uncovered these violations of federal law in 2015.
Earlier in the week Judicial Watch received about 900 pages of emails and records from the Environmental Protection Agency which clearly show that under the Obama Administration, the agency utilized a program called Thunderclap to conduct an illegal campaign to sway public opinion. Speaking on this newly revealed evidence, Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said, “The Obama EPA knowingly did an end run around federal law to push another Obama environmental power grab. These documents show how these Obama-era bureaucrats seem to be more like social activists than public employees.”
As President Trump and his administration are continuing to clean house and rid the Whitehouse of Obama leftovers, it is likely more damaging documents and evidence will be released.
The Thunderclap program that Obama officials used coordinates public relations initiatives between different social media platforms. In the correspondence obtained by Judicial Watch, witch you can read below, these Obama EPA officials knowingly violated federal law.
Federal law prohibits those with the executive branch of government to lobby Congress or to solicit the public the public to lobby Congress, which is what these Obama EPA officials did.
Looking at the documents, which Judicial Watch released on their web site, Travis Loop, the EPA’s Director of Communications for Water started this illegal lobbying effort. In an email dated September 9th, 2014 to Gary Belan, who was the Senior Director for the Organization American Rivers, Travis Loop wrote, “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. Here’s how it works: you agree to let Thunderclap post a one-time message on your social networks (Facebook, Twitter or Tumblr) on Monday, September 29 at 2:00 pm EDT. 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.”
In the EPA’s communication’s it was also revealed that they knew what they were doing was illegal. As reported by Judicial Watch, “The EPA’s Director of Web Communications Jessica Orquina, in a September 10, 2014, email, wrote to Karen Wirth, an EPA team leader in the Office of Ground Water and Drinking Water, urging the covert use of the Thunderclap technology. “I don’t want it to look like EPA used our own social media accounts to reach our support goal,” Orquina wrote to Wirth.” This email comes one day after Travis Loop started this illegal campaign and demonstrates how nefarious these officials were. On the same day Travis Loop also wrote an email to Jessica Orquina, attempting to illegally recruit other government agencies to use Thunderclap, saying, “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.” Orquina responds: “Why don’t I send a message to the interagency social media listserv?”
The Obama Whitehouse was well aware of this illegal operation, and this is proven in an email dated September 25th, 2014, where Travis Loop wrote Jay Jensen of the Whitehouse Council on Environmental Quality, “Right now we have 840 people who have signed up and so the message will be seen by 1.7 million people. I’m trying to make this as big as possible, so anyone that can sign up and encourage others to sign up is appreciated. I know you have lots of connections all across the board that could make this even bigger.”
The actions of these Obama EPA officials are a clear violation of federal law, but it has not been reported if any of these officials or if anyone from the Obama Administration will be charged criminally.