Senator criticizes EPA watchdog after it clears What’s Upstream

The What’s Upstream advocacy campaign was a proper use of Environmental Protection Agency funds, according to an audit released Monday, a finding that frustrated farm group leaders and a U.S. senator who requested the investigation.
The EPA’s Office of Inspector General cleared the agency, the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission and the Swinomish Indian tribe of any wrongdoing in spending nearly $500,000 in federal funds to advocate for stricter limits on farming near water in Washington.
The environmental groups told members they hoped the campaign would influence the votes of state legislators.
The fisheries commission, which represents 20 tribes, probably will not comment, a spokesman said.
Save Family Farming, a Washington group formed to counter What’s Upstream, will ask lawmakers to tighten the law to keep federal funds from financing other lobbying campaigns, the group’s director, Gerald Baron, said.
The EPA should cut off all funding to the fisheries commission until the agency can ensure federal funds won’t be used for political activities, he said.
The Swinomish tribe was awarded $723,138 from the 2010 grant, according to the audit.
Strategies 360 billed the tribe for $467,312, according to the audit.
Because of public scrutiny, the fisheries commission did not reimburse the tribe for $43,357 related to advertising timed to influence the 2016 Legislature, but those costs were allowed, according to the inspector general.
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