Newhouse: Review ‘What’s Upstream’

Congressman calls for action by agency head

— Congressman Dan Newhouse is calling for a review of a federal agency that used public funds to pay for an anti-farm campaign.

Newhouse, R-Sunnyside, himself a farmer, sent a letter Tuesday to newly appointed Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt asking him to follow up on the agency’s commitment to review its grant protocols to ensure “… good stewardship of taxpayer dollars and prevent future misuses of EPA funds and grants.”

The review request stems from the agency’s grant of $25 million over five years to Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission.

Washington state tribes then used the money to pay for the anti-agriculture “What’s Upstream” political campaign designed to pressure lawmakers into passing more stringent water quality regulations.

The anti-farming advertising included a website, radio advertising and billboards depicting dead fish and polluted water, purportedly caused by agricultural operations. The advertising urged residents to contact state legislators and, “hold the agricultural industry to the same level of responsibility as other industries.”

That tone, and the agency’s later admission it should not have granted the funds, has Newhouse worried.

“I believe this misguided campaign has unacceptably used taxpayer dollars to malign our nation’s farmers and agriculture producers, and label them as careless polluters of our waterways,” he wrote. “It is evident that this campaign violated federal laws and policies that prohibit federal funds from being used for lobbying and propaganda efforts.”

Despite pledges by Pruitt’s predecessor, Gina McCarthy, to review agency protocols, Newhouse said no update has been provided.

“It became apparent that no steps were being taken to fulfill Administrator McCarthy’s pledge,” Newhouse said. “I would request that your agency carry out this review to ensure appropriate use of taxpayer dollars.”

In December, Newhouse demanded the Environmental Protection Agency halt federal grant spending in the wake of an investigation of the “What’s Upstream” campaign.


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