Democratic Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Tom Carper (D-DE) were suspicious as to how the Environmental Protection Agency was choosing applicants, so they filed a complaint with the Government Accountability Office. In their letter, the Democrats charge that the agency violated ethics rules - President Trump's own ethics rules - which state that employees cannot “participate in any particular matter” on which they had lobbied in the past two years.
The EPA got around those rules with the Safe Drinking Water Act, hiring up to 30 people “without regard to civil service laws," the senators write.
“The whole point of ethics laws is to give the American people confidence that the work of their government is being conducted fairly, honestly, and free from special interest sway,” Carper and Whitehouse said in a statement. “But when an agency can just ignore those rules—and congressional oversight—the result often leads to corruption and scandal.”
The EPA says that is not the case.
"EPA’s hiring practices are consistent with those of previous Administrations," EPA spokeswoman Liz Bowman responded. "Everyone has received an ethics briefing, is aware of their responsibilities and is committed to serving professionally.”
Whitehouse and Carper aren't buying it, demanding that the GAO "examine the authorities, policies, practices, entities involved, and compliance with applicable ethics requirements that EPA and CEQ have followed in hiring non-confirmed political appointees.”
They may have accepted the Democrats' request for an investigation, but work won't begin for "a few months," according to GAO spokesman Chuck Young.