Judicial Watch Sues EPA for Violating Prohibition on Propaganda by a Federal Agency

GAO Found EPA’s Use of Thunderclap to Promote Clean Water Rule Violates Prohibition on Propaganda by a Federal Agency
GAO Found EPA’s Use of Thunderclap to Promote Clean Water Rule Violates Prohibition on Propaganda by a Federal Agency

Judicial WatchWashington, DC-(Ammoland.com)-– Judicial Watch has filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for all records related to the EPA’s use of the Thunderclap social media platform. Judicial Watch filed the lawsuit on June 21 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia (Judicial Watch vs. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (No. 1:17-cv-01218)).

The suit was filed after EPA failed to respond to a May 3, 2017, FOIA request seeking:

All internal emails or other records concerning project administration, management, or assignment of tasks related to the EPA’s use of the Thunderclap social media platform.

A December 2015 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report concluded the EPA’s use of Thunderclap to send out messages boosting the Waters of the United States rule (also known as the Clean Water Rule) “constitutes covert propaganda” and violates the legal prohibition on propaganda by a federal agency.

The GAO report found that the EPA reached 1.8 million social media users through Thunderclap, which uses a synchronized social media blast to amplify a message on platforms such as Twitter:

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) violated publicity or propaganda and anti-lobbying provisions contained in appropriations acts with its use of certain social media platforms in association with its “Waters of the United States” (WOTUS) rulemaking in fiscal years 2014 and 2015. Specifically, EPA violated the publicity or propaganda prohibition though its use of a platform known as Thunderclap that allows a single message to be shared across multiple Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr accounts at the same time. EPA engaged in covert propaganda when the agency did not identify EPA's role as the creator of the Thunderclap message to the target audience.

The EPA said it sent the message through Thunderclap to clarify what it says was misinformation being spread about the Clean Water Rule. The GAO report, however, said the EPA failed to disclose it was the source of the Thunderclap message.

Federal agencies are permitted to promote polices, but are prohibited from engaging in propaganda, which is defined as covert activity intended to influence the American public. Agencies are also prohibited from using federal resources to conduct grass-roots lobbying to prod the American public to call on Congress to act on pending legislation.

“EPA appealed to the public to contact Congress in opposition to pending legislation in violation of the grass-roots lobbying prohibition,” the GAO said in its report.

“The Obama EPA has a checkered history on transparency and accountability,” Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said. “Judicial Watch wants the details on the Obama EPA’s sketchy effort to secretly peddle propaganda to protect its regulatory power grab.”

It was recently reported that the Trump administration is taking action to repeal the Waters of the U.S. rule, “an Obama-era regulation that gave Washington broad powers over streams and other small bodies of water across the country.”

About Judicial Watch

Judicial Watch, Inc., a conservative, non-partisan educational foundation, promotes transparency, accountability and integrity in government, politics and the law. Through its educational endeavors, Judicial Watch advocates high standards of ethics and morality in our nation’s public life and seeks to ensure that political and judicial officials do not abuse the powers entrusted to them by the American people. Judicial Watch fulfills its educational mission through litigation, investigations, and public outreach.

For more information, visit: www.JudicialWatch.org.

  • 5 thoughts on “Judicial Watch Sues EPA for Violating Prohibition on Propaganda by a Federal Agency

    1. @Wild Bill, what you are saying makes it a mute point for Judicial Watch to waist their time and money on this. Just simply cancel the rule and go on with life. I don’t see why congress can’t do that or couldn’t do it when it was somebody’s wet dream. Congress could just nullify the whole stupid thing along with many others. All that is needed is congress people that have time to do their job.

      1. @Tomcat, Congress would have to pass an act, and Congress can not agree on the color of an orange. It takes Congress longer to move than an agency. The agency is part of the executive branch so Congress could not just cancel a rule. Congress can not give away its law making ability to an agency in the first place. Lets get back to the Constitution.

    2. Just disband that UNConstitutional agency along with a bunch of others who have far exceeded their purpose and are nothing more than illegal rule making expensive groups of wannabe dictators. Start with the EPA and follow with ending the Dept of Energy, the Dept of Education, and whole host of others.

      1. @CG, Congress likes to have agencies that make rules that have the “force and effect of law”. That way the MOC can say, “It was not me. I am not responsible.” But Congress is responsible because they have given away their legislative authority. That is a thing that Congress can not Constitutionally do. Congress can create an agency, but not give it legislative authority.

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