EPA Admin's GOP Fundraiser Appearance OK'd in Review 8

Posted by Brad Johnson Tue, 12 Feb 2008 22:26:00 GMT

The Office of Special Counsel has concluded its investigation into EPA administrator Stephen Johnson’s March 9, 2006 appearance at a fundraiser for Rick O’Donnell, a Republican candidate for Colorado’s 7th District. In its press release, the OSC declared that Johnson did not violate the Hatch Act.

The complaint, filed by Colorado Democratic Party chair Pat Waak, noted that an e-mail by former Colorado health department Doug Benevento had the subject line, “Fundraiser with Administrator of EPA Stephen L. Johnson for Rick O’Donnell,” with an attachment entitled “Fundraiser with Administrator of EPA.”

The act forbids fundraiser invitations that include the federal employee’s official title.

However, the OSC found:
that while Mr. Johnson’s official title was used in an e-mail invitation for the fundraiser, the invitation was sent by an organizer of the event, who was not covered by the Hatch Act. Moreover, as the individual did not consult, or receive approval from the EPA or Mr. Johnson, he was not responsible for the use of his official title in the e-mail used to distribute the invitation.

OSC also found that the EPA staff, in approving Mr. Johnson’s participation in the fundraiser, had not reviewed the list of the attendees, nor informed him of who would be attending the fundraiser, or where they were employed. Therefore, OSC found no evidence that Mr. Johnson had knowingly solicited or discouraged the political activity of persons with business before the EPA.

While Mr. Johnson did not violate the Hatch Act, OSC found deficiencies in EPA staff review processes, and recommended that EPA staff be aware of all parties and their roles in political events, including the attendees, and consider this information when advising on participation. Also, OSC advised EPA staff to review the invitation, along with its cover letter or e-mail, to ensure it complies with the Hatch Act.