The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) spent over $15 million on outside public relations consultants despite employing nearly 200 full-time in house PR workers.
A new report on EPA spending released by Open the Books, a nonprofit organization dedicated to transparency, found numerous examples of questionable expenditures within the agency.
Among them, the EPA spent over $15.1 million on outside public relations consultants between 2000 and 2014. The funding was on top of the $141.496 million in salaries and $1.5 million in bonuses on full-time public affairs officers the EPA has spent since 2007. As of 2012, the EPA employed 198 public affairs employees. The average EPA employee salary is $111,165.
"Everyone is under the impression that the EPA is spending money to ‘clean the environment.’ But, it turns out EPA is running a $160 million PR Machine, $715 million police agency, a near $1 billion employment agency for seniors, and a $1.2 billion in-house law firm," said Adam Andrzejewski, the founder of Open the Books.
"The EPA wasting $160 million on public relations dwarfs our recent exposure of their high-end furniture purchases ($92 million)," he said. "Nothing is emblematic of government excess like an army of highly compensated PR agents sitting in their easy chairs. It’s simply waste."
Open the Books also found the EPA spent $261,456 on badges and insignia, millions on gym equipment, and $17,820 on "Games, Toys and Wheeled Goods."
The agency spent $23,884 for awards and trophies for the EPA Office of Research and Development (ORD) ceremony in 2012 and 2013.
"The EPA culture of wasteful spending extended into their own award ceremonies," said Andrzejewski. "Tagging the awards as ‘athletic and sporting equipment’ in their checkbook, they spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to pat themselves on their own backs."
Andrzejewski noted that the EPA also has given $144 million in performance bonuses since 2007. "It’s an imbedded culture that gave $4 million in additional awards, badges, and trophies to themselves paid for at taxpayer expense," he said.
The report found that the EPA has spent 35.2 percent more on contracts during the first six years of the Obama administration than in the Bush administration, an increase of $2.5 billion.
Open the Books combed through $92.692 billion in EPA contracts and grants between fiscal years 2000 and 2014 to compile their findings.
"Public participation is a key component of EPA’s mission to protect human health and the environment," said a spokesperson for the agency. "EPA is legally obligated to communicate the work of our programs with the American public, Congress, stakeholders, and the media—including publicizing public hearings and citizen comment periods. This report cherry picks and falsely misrepresents the work of two administrations whose job it is to ensure people are informed about the critical work of EPA."