EPA approved aide to work for GOP firm, Florida lawmaker

EPA approved aide to work for GOP firm, Florida lawmaker
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The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approved one of Administrator Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittOvernight Energy: EPA halts surprise inspections of power, chemical plants | Regulators decline to ban pesticide linked to brain damage | NY awards country's largest offshore wind energy contracts EPA allows continued use of pesticide linked with brain damage Overnight Energy: Trump officials gut DC staff for public lands agency to move West | Democrats slam EPA over scientific boards | Deepwater Horizon most litigated environmental issue of decade MORE's political aides to do outside consulting work for a Republican firm, internal documents obtained in a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request show.

EPA ethics officials approved John Konkus to work for Jamestown Associates, a Washington, D.C.-based political consulting firm, and a Florida state representative while he was still employed at the agency, E&E News first reported Friday.

EPA did not release the name of the Florida lawmaker. Jamestown Associates boasts on its website that it helped Donald TrumpDonald John Trump5 things to know about Boris Johnson Conservatives erupt in outrage against budget deal Trump says Omar will help him win Minnesota MORE's presidential campaign win and buoyed Chris Christie's 2013 New Jersey gubernatorial race.

The document dated Aug. 1, 2017, from EPA ethics official Justina Fugh approved Konkus's request to partake in the paid outside work. The letter also acknowledged the Konkus had plans to add additional clients in the "next six months." The letter stated that Konkus could not earn more than $27,765 through outside compensation. 

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"We have determined that providing consolatory media advice is not a fiduciary role, and you will be providing those services directly as opposed to through any corporation," the letter read.

The ethics office approved Konkus to advise clients about "strategy, mail and media production."

Another internal letter obtained by E&E news found that Konkus never performed outside work in 2017.

In a public financial disclosure report for Konkus's 2017 wages, Fugh wrote a note on April 25, 2018, that read, "Even though Mr. Konkus had sought prior approval of anticipated outside activity, he indicated that he did not in fact engage in any outside activity at all during calendar year 2017. Therefore, he has no outside income or position to report."

Konkus's arrangement was first revealed in a letter the EPA sent in January to Rep. Frank Pallone Jr.Frank Joseph PalloneEquifax to pay up to 0 million to feds, states in 2017 data breach settlement Here are the 95 Democrats who voted to support impeachment Overnight Energy: USDA expected to lose two-thirds of research staff in move west | EPA hails Trump's work on reducing air pollution | Agency eyes reducing inspections of nuclear reactors MORE (N.J.), the top Democrat on the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

But the agency redacted the names of the clients Konkus was approved to work for.

At the time, Pallone and his Democratic colleagues questioned whether Konkus’s outside employment raised a conflict of interest.

“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,” Pallone wrote along with Democratic Reps. Diana DeGette (Colo.), Paul Tonko (N.Y.) and Kathy Castor (Fla.).