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ACTION ALERT: Welcome to the Swamp: EPA on the Corporate Chopping Block


November 27, 2017
Chris Riotta / Newsweek & CREDO Action

Wall Street billionaires, corporate lobbyists and far right conservatives flooded the White House almost immediately after Donald Trump's presidential victory, according to records of visitor logs the White House was forced to reveal following a Freedom of Information lawsuit. Meanwhile, Trump's climate-change-denying EPA pick, Scott Pruitt, is moving to replace independent scientists on EPA advisory boards with representatives of the fossil fuel and chemical industries.

http://www.newsweek.com/donald-trump-white-house-billionaires-big-business-interests-visitor-logs-719721

Trump's Swamp of Billionaires and Lobbyists
Revealed in Secret White House Visitor Logs

Chris Riotta / Newsweek

(November 25, 2017) -- Wall Street billionaires, corporate lobbyists and far right conservatives flooded the White House almost immediately after Donald Trump's presidential victory, newly released White House visitor logs reveal.

The White House was forced to release the list of visitors to five federal offices after the Washington transparency group Property of the People sued under the Freedom of Information Act. The searchable logs, published Tuesday by ProPublica, provide a glimpse into the creation of the president's political agenda, spearheaded almost entirely by business interests, with little input from consumer advocacy or humanitarian groups.

Officials at the Office of Management and Budget, for example, met periodically with CEOs from the health care industry and big businesses, a handful of lobbyists representing Koch Industries and several billionaires intent on shaping White House policy, including casino magnate Steve Wynn -- a close friend of the president -- and corporate leader Charles Schwab.

Logs were also released for the US Trade Representative, National Drug and Control Policy, Council on Environmental Quality and the Office of Science and Technology Policy.

It's certainly not the first time that the Office of Management and Budget has heard from private business leaders and lobbyists, but the sheer variety of corporate interests and lack of consumer representation during policy conversations marks a clear departure from previous White House norms. Former President Barack Obama's OMB typically met with consumer rights groups and philanthropic representatives under its director, Peter Orszag.

The logs also reveal how much money can be spent by lobbying groups just to get their foot in the door inside the West Wing. Budget chief Mick Mulvaney's former congressional Chief of Staff Al Simpson was hired by the lobbying firm Mercury in February, soon after Trump appointed Mulvaney to run the management and budget office.

Since then, Mulvaney and Simpson met at least seven times and had one phone call, as the lobbyist brought his clients to meet his old boss. Those clients, including powerhouse corporations like Cemex and pharma firms like AmerisourceBergen, paid Simpson's lobbying firm $360,000 throughout 2017, ProPublica reported.

Meetings at the Office of Budget and Management have become far less inclusive under Mulvaney, who recently told Politico, "I don't think anyone in this administration is more of a right-wing conservative than I am." The director has met frequently with representatives from the Heritage Foundation, a conservative policy think tank that has stirred controversy over its stances on issues including immigration and health care.

The purposes behind several White House meetings remain shrouded in mystery. For example, Mulvaney met with Jeff Bell, a member of the controversial religious group Opus Dei, which has been said to use cult-like recruitment practices, on March 28.

Meanwhile, out of the 8,807 meetings and people listed in the logs, 2,169 names and subject matter are redacted -- nearly 25 percent of the data dump. Property of the People is reportedly negotiating to get some of the identities unmasked.

The Trump administration handled the visitor logs differently than its predecessor. After the Obama administration was sued for its logs, it released them without a court fight. But the Trump administration waged a legal battle to keep the records sealed.

In the end, the Obama administration released three million records.



ACTION ALERT: Investigate the EPA's Removal of
Independent Scientists from Advisory Boards

CREDO Action from Working Assets

The petition to the comptroller general of the United States and the Government Accountability Office reads:
"Investigate Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt's decision to ban EPA-funded scientists from scientific advisory boards."

As the head of Trump's Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Scott Pruitt is shameless in his quest to get rid of environmental protections. In the latest assault on his own agency's mission, Pruitt has quietly moved to replace independent scientists on EPA advisory boards with fossil fuel and chemical industry representatives.

This attack on science and scientists affects all of us. EPA advisory boards make recommendations about our environmental safety and protection -- covering everything from pesticides and hazardous waste to climate and air pollution. We must resist Pruitt's blatant efforts to undermine scientific integrity at every turn.

Pruitt has banned scientists who have received EPA grants from serving on advisory boards, claiming that he is eliminating conflicts of interest. In fact, his policy does the opposite. Pruitt is getting rid of academic experts -- who rely on outside research funding -- and replacing them with corporate-funded scientists. Because research grants often go to the top scientists in a given field, Pruitt's policy systematically excludes many of the most qualified scientists from advising the EPA.

Just five days after announcing his new policy, Pruitt appointed 66 new scientists to advisory boards -- many with ties to the same polluting companies the EPA is supposed to be regulating, including Phillips 66, Dow Chemical and Procter & Gamble. (1 )Two of the new board chairs have attacked the EPA's science in the past. (2)

Now 10 senators have called on the Government Accountability Office to investigate. In their words (emphasis in original):

The double-standard is striking: an academic scientist that receives an EPA grantfor any purpose cannot provide independent advice on a completely different subject matter on any of EPA's science advisory boards, while industry scientists are presumed to have no inherent conflict if their research is entirely funded by a company with a financial stake in an advisory board's conclusions. (3)

Stand with these senators and demand an investigation into Pruitt's corporate takeover of scientific advisory boards.

ACTION: Tell the comptroller general of the United States: Investigate the EPA's removal of government-funded scientists from advisory boards. Click here to sign the petition.
Click this link to sign the petition.


References:
1. Juliet Eilperin, "EPA's new science advisers add more industry experts, conservatives to the mix," The Washington Post, Nov. 4, 2017.

2. Ibid.

3. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse et al., "Letter to the Honorable Gene L. Dodaro, Comptroller General of the United States," Nov. 9, 2017

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

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