EPA Ends No-Bid Contract With GOP Oppo Firm Under Scrutiny

Cheriss May/SIPPL Sipa USA

A controversial no-bid contract the EPA offered to a GOP opposition firm will come to an end, the firm Definers confirmed Tuesday.

Definers’ work for the EPA came under scrutiny after Mother Jones first reported the $120,000 contract, ostensibly for media monitoring, last week, noting that the firm previously hired by the EPA for similar work was not also involved in recent political campaigns. That contract was open for other bids.

A follow up report in the New York Times revealed that a top figure at Definers, Alan Blutstein, had embarked on public records requests related to low-level and mid-level career employees suspected of being critical of EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. (Blutstein told the Times that his FOIA endeavors were not part of Definers’ EPA contract.)

“Definers offered EPA a better and more efficient news clipping service that would give EPA’s employees real-time news at a lower cost than what previous administrations paid for more antiquated clipping services,” Definers President Joe Pounder said in a statement Tuesday. “But it’s become clear this will become a distraction.”

Earlier Tuesday, Democrat lawmakers had sent a letter to Pruitt calling on him to end the contract and requesting that he turn over documents related to the EPA’s relationship with Definers.

Pounder, Blutstein and others at Definers are associated with America Rising, a GOP-aligned opposition research firm that turns up dirt on Democratic politicians. America Rising was also behind a PR campaign supporting Pruitt’s confirmation to lead the EPA.

Pounder has declined to answer the New York Times’ questions about who was funding that work.

Pounder said on Twitter Tuesday that four other government agencies had “expressed interest” in working with Definers, but that Definers would forgo bidding on those contracts.