Two senior political appointees at the Environmental Protection Agency were permitted by the agency's ethics office to receive outside income, despite their full-time jobs in President Donald Trump's administration.
One of the appointees in particular, Republican political consultant John Konkus, "personally supervises every grant the agency awards to or solicits from outside groups," The Washington Post reported. Konkus serves as the deputy associate administrator for the office of public affairs for the EPA.
Konkus wanted "to take on clients to advise about strategy, mail and media production," according to an Aug. 1 letter letter from Justina Fugh, the EPA’s alternate designated agency ethics official, adding that Konkus planned to be "getting more clients in the next six months," according to the Post.
Along with him is Pruitt's special assistant, Patrick Davis, who led Trump's presidential campaign in Colorado, according to the Associated Press. To go with his job at the EPA, Davis requested an additional role to work "as the sales director of Telephone Town Hall Meeting," a Feb. 3 letter from Fugh showed.
House Democrats on the Energy and Commerce Committee expressed "serious concerns of impartiality" and requested "additional information regarding appointees engaged in outside activity for compensation," in a letter to EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt on Monday. Letters from the EPA's office of general counsel were released as well.
"A political appointee cutting millions of dollars in funding to EPA grant recipients on what appears to be a politically motivated basis, while at the same time being authorized to serve as a paid media consultant to unnamed outside clients, raises serious concerns of potential conflicts of interest," the letter from House Democrats said.
According to the Post, the income brought in by the side jobs was not allowed to be more than $27,765 and the two were barred from "'any matter that will have a direct and predictable financial effect upon your outside' employer or clients."
A spokesman for the EPA defended the approval of outside income in an email that said, "As the letter states, EPA career ethics approvals have reviewed and approved these opportunities."
Both Konkus and Davis have shady political backgrounds and have proven to be loyal to the Trump presidency.
The AP elaborated:
Prior to joining the Trump administration, Konkus worked as an executive vice president for Jamestown Associates, a political consulting firm. According to the firm’s website last year, Konkus “worked on the ground tirelessly to help President Trump win Florida.”
Konkus also served two years as chief of staff to former Florida Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll. A Republican, Carroll was forced to resign in 2013 over consulting work she had previously done for a scam veteran’s charity that state and federal prosecutors said laundered more than $300 million in proceeds from illegal gambling parlors.
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According to a 2015 report by ProPublica, Davis was accused two years earlier of defrauding a conservative super PAC called Vote2ReduceDebt, which was funded by an elderly oil tycoon. The group collapsed after Davis allegedly paid nearly $3 million of the PAC’s funds to organizations run by him or his close associates, according to the news report.
Last year the Post reported that Konkus singled out awards that mentioned climate change — which he referred to as "the double C-word" — or ones that stood opposed to the administration's agenda.
An administration official with a side job isn't a first — not even in 2018. Last month, it was revealed that Heath Hall, the head of the Federal Railroad Administration was working as a political consultant while in office.