A consulting firm has pulled out of a federal contract to provide media monitoring services to the Environmental Protection Agency after it was disclosed that a lawyer among its top executives had been investigating agency employees critical of the Trump administration, reports The New York Times, which added that “Joe Pounder, the president of Definers Public Affairs, said in a statement on Twitter that his company’s $120,000 contract with the E.P.A., which it was awarded this month, had become a “distraction.”
“The contract came under scrutiny because of the company’s links to America Rising, a Virginia-based corporation and Republican political operation with several offshoots that have investigated E.P.A. officials. One lawyer on the company’s staff, Allan Blutstein, sent a series of Freedom of Information Act requests to the E.P.A. asking for email correspondence by employees who had been publicly critical of the Trump administration’s management of the agency.
“America Rising and its affiliates also separately deployed “trackers” to videotape climate change activists and produced news releases and videos favorable to Scott Pruitt, the administrator of the E.P.A.
“Definers Public Affairs, a corporate entity, shares multiple top executives with America Rising, including Mr. Pounder. Both he and E.P.A. officials said the contract was solely to monitor and collect news articles and videos that appear about the agency. E.P.A. officials said a need for compiling those news reports was not being met sufficiently by its previous vendor.
“But agency employees — particularly those who had been targeted by America Rising after they raised questions about the management of Mr. Trump’s E.P.A. — said they were fearful the new contract might translate into increased surveillance of agency staff.
“E.P.A. officials and Mr. Pounder disputed that suggestion.”
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