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Newhouse Urges Swift Action after New Information on “What’s Upstream”

October 19, 2016
Press Release

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Rep. Dan Newhouse (R-WA), released the following statement after the amended complaint was filed to the Washington State Public Disclosure Commission regarding violations related to the “What’s Upstream” campaign in Washington state:

“I encourage this complaint to be acted upon swiftly in order to determine all the facts on the improper and illegal use of taxpayer funds for the anti-farmer ‘What’s Upstream’ campaign. Those found responsible for any illegal activity should be held accountable to the law.”

Last month, Rep. Newhouse led a letter to Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy requesting an update on the agency’s review. EPA Region 10 funded the What’s Upstream website and advocacy campaign that attempts to influence legislators for greater regulation of farmers and ranchers. The letter requests an update on the agency’s progress assembling facts and enacting reforms to ensure appropriated funds are not being used in contravention of the law. In April of this year, Administrator McCarthy acknowledged that the EPA was “distressed by the use of the money and the tone of [the What’s Upstream] campaign” and called for a full review of the use of taxpayer funds for the campaign. The letter sent today was signed by House Agriculture Committee Chairman Mike Conaway (R-TX), Rep. Rick Crawford (R-AR), Rep. Bob Gibbs (R-OH), Rep. Collin C. Peterson (D-MN), and Rep. David Scott (D-GA).

In April, the EPA admitted that it should not have funded a campaign in Washington State known as What's Upstream, due to that campaign’s brazen lobbying of state legislators in contravention of federal law. The What's Upstream campaign, which was wholly funded by the EPA, used grant awards to fund a website, radio ads, and billboards depicting dead fish and polluted water, urging individuals to contact their state legislators and, “hold the agricultural industry to the same level of responsibility as other industries.” A large, red button on the website labeled, “Take action! We’ve made it simple,” allowed visitors to easily send an email to their state legislators advocating for 100-foot stream buffer zones and other policies. An EPA Inspector General’s report from 2014 had warned that the EPA region responsible for awarding the grant had insufficient protections in place to ensure awardees were not using funds for advocacy, propaganda, and/or lobbying efforts.

According to a December, 2015 report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), the EPA violated federal lobbying and advocacy laws by funding social media campaigns supporting EPA’s Waters of the United States (WOTUS) Rule.