Energy & Environment

EPA ends contract with GOP opposition research firm after media reports

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The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has ended a contract with a public affairs firm amid questions over the firm’s ties to Republican advocacy groups and causes.

A spokesperson for the EPA confirmed Tuesday that the agency has ended the no-bid, $120,000 contract with Definers Public Affairs, which it had previously said was for “media monitoring services.”

The contract was first reported last week by Mother Jones.

“How we consume our news has changed, and we hope to find a vendor that can provide us with real-time news clips at a rate that is cheaper than our previous vendor,” said EPA spokesman Jahan Wilcox.


The news was first reported by The Washington Post and came the same day a pair of Democratic senators called on EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt to terminate the contract, saying Definers Public Affairs’ close ties to GOP causes “presents an appearance of impropriety to which you as administrator should never be a party.”

The cancellation comes after The New York Times reported last week that an executive with Definers had been investigating EPA employees who were critical of Pruitt and the Trump administration agenda.

Definers Vice President Allan Blutstein said he was probing anti-Trump “resistance” within the agency.

“I wondered if they were emailing critical things about the agency on government time and how frequently they were corresponding about this,” Blutstein said. “And did they do anything that would be useful for Republicans.”

Blutstein insisted his investigations were not related to Definers Public Affairs’ work for the EPA, but employees said there was a concerted effort to target those who may be skeptical of the White House’s policies.

“This is a witch hunt against EPA employees who are only trying to protect human health and the environment,” one staffer told the Times. 

Joe Pounder, the president of Definers Public Affairs, said the firm would end its work with federal government clients and instead focus on its corporate clients.

“Definers offered EPA a better and more efficient news clipping service that would give EPA’s employees real-time news at a lower cost than what previous Administrations paid for more antiquated clipping services. But it’s become clear this will become a distraction,” said Pounder. 

Pounder also said Definers would forgo contract bids for four other government agencies that “expressed interest” in the firm’s services. 

Bulletin Intelligence reportedly previously held a one-year contract for the same service for $207,597.

Pounder is also the president of America Rising, a political action committee that often compiles opposition research on Democrats. 

Tags Definers Public Affairs Scott Pruitt

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