Billionaire Tom Steyer implied Tuesday night that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is using methods of vetting funding requests that are reminiscent of Joseph Stalin, a 20th Century dictator of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR).
The climate change activist and Democrat donor tweeted a Washington Post story detailing how John Konkus, a political operative out of Florida appointed to serve in the EPA’s public affairs office, is reportedly screening funding priorities for the agency.
Stalin led the USSR from 1929 to 1953. While dictator, Stalin sought to purge the country of political enemies, real and imaginary, by imprisoning people in forced labor camps or executing them altogether. While no exact number is known, Stalin is responsible for the deaths of about 20 million people, according to the History Channel.
At President Donald Trump’s EPA, Konkus inspects grant applications for “the double C-word,” meaning climate change, to decide whether an initiative should be prioritized by the agency, sources told The Washington Post.
Konkus has canceled around $2 million in competitively awarded grants, mostly funding priorities of former President Barack Obama. The total amount of awards denied amounts to 1 percent of the payments made since Scott Pruitt took over as Trump’s EPA administrator.
“[Grant decisions] are to ensure funding is in line with the Agency’s mission and policy priorities,” EPA Liz Bowman told WaPo in an email. “We review grants to see if they are providing tangible results to the American people.”
Lawmakers are questioning the vetting process, believing it to be more politicized than scientific. EPA grant money to Alaska was cut off for weeks after a controversial healthcare vote where Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski voted against the Republican majority.
The EPA also canceled a $20,000 one-day seminar on bedbug removal in Flint, Michigan.
“Let’s be clear, we are talking about $20,000 for a one-day workshop on bedbugs,” Bowman told WaPo, emphasizing the need for priorities when taxpayer dollars are allocated.
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