April 4, 2006 - 10:10am ET
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When President Bush named Stephen Johnson to head the EPA, he made much of the fact that Johnson was a scientist and that he would “place sound scientific analysis at the heart of all major decisions.”
People are still wondering what kind of “scientific analysis” was behind Johnson’s recent decision to headline a $300-a-head fundraiser for Republican congressional candidate Rick O’Donnell in Denver—in what has been described as perhaps the most hotly contested congressional race this year.
The fundraiser invitation—“Subject: Fundraiser with Administrator of EPA Stephen L. Johnson for Rick O'Donnell this Thursday”—itself has raised eyebrows because it is technically a violation of the Hatch Act to use a federal official’s title in a political capacity. The invite came from a lobbyist with the Greenberg Traurig firm (famous for its alumni Jack Abramoff and Michael Scanlon).
The EPA has disavowed any wrongdoing in the matter, even though several reporters contacted Johnson’s staff in advance to inquire why he was attending an event that, at the very least, appeared to be legally suspect.
The Denver Post disclosed last week that the small group who attended the March 9 fundraiser included the coal, oil and gas industries—essentially a rogue’s gallery of the biggest polluters in Colorado—lobbyists eager to buy private access to a guy who, in theory, regulates their businesses.
"This just smells,” says Colorado Democrat Diana DeGette. “Regular people don't get this kind of access to the head of the EPA." She said she and other members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee are considering filing an ethics complaint.
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