Washington Free Beacon reporter Liz Harrington appeared on Fox Business's Varney & Co. on Tuesday to discuss her story on the "$160 million PR machine" run by the Environmental Protection Agency.
Full transcript below:
STUART VARNEY: How about this? The EPA spends a whopping $158 million of your money on its public relations budget and $15 million of that goes to people outside the EPA itself, to outside PR people. Liz Harrington from the Washington Free Beacon, you brought us this story and it’s a good one. I have to ask, how many people does the EPA people have on the inside before it goes outside?
LIZ HARRINGTON: Right, on the inside, they have 198 full-time employees, so that's in-house and I think it's indicative of the size of these government bureaucracies that you're seeing. Two hundred full-time PR employees, plus they spend a million dollars a year on outside consultants. That's a huge operation—you see how big the size of government has grown.
VARNEY: If you ask them, how do they justify this?
HARRINGTON: Well, they say, you know, we do a lot of important work and it's important to share with the public what we're doing with regulations and public comment and getting the word out. But at the same time, I think they have a lot of press work when you see the Gold King mine spill, that’s bad press, when you have states suing over water regulation. A lot of PR work goes into trying to spin that. So, I think it's questionable to see, they're saying they're doing this positive work, it's just informing the public when they're really cleaning up a lot of messes of their own.
VARNEY: Do you think that they would ever cut that PR staff? I know I’m asking a foolish question because no government worker ever gets cut period, but I’m just asking. What are the odds?
HARRINGTON: I mean, honestly, once it grows to that size—and it's not really quick, either. Every time I reach out to the EPA for comment, they don't get back to me quickly and then it's a pretty boring statement, usually, so I don't really know what they're doing over there, but 200 employees, it's a huge number. I mean, like you said it's bigger than the Kardashians, so—
VARNEY: Is this common in other government departments? Two hundred in-house people at the EPA? How many would it be in other government departments? Is it common that the government should have a huge phalanx of people in the media?
HARRINGTON: I have to imagine it would be similar. A lot of these agencies do similar work in their scope and in the number of regulations that they issue. I mean, you're going to have a lot of people, so many subdivisions within every agency, the public affairs officials for every little program. I have to imagine that the numbers are comparable.
VARNEY: It's the bureaucracy that gets to people. It's not the number—198 PR people—it’s not that, but it's such a vast bureaucracy and getting something really done, decisive action, you’re just not going to see it. Look, I’m putting out my own politics here, I know, but I think I’m preaching to the choir with you.
HARRINGTON: No, I think you're right. I think what public relations usually does is either cleaning up a mess or putting out, you know, the information that they want to get out. Is that accomplishing all that much? It's hard to imagine that you need that many people to do the work that they're actually doing. I think, you know, Open the Books is the transparency group that really dug into these numbers and they said that people expect the EPA to be working to protect the environment, and yet you see they have a $160 million dollar PR machine that is a big part of what they do and spinning what they do. It's important for people to know about.
VARNEY: I would just like to know where my money is going. Liz, we appreciate it.
HARRINGTON: Thanks for having me.