The Environmental Protection Agency engaged in “covert propaganda” and violated federal law when it blitzed social media to urge the public to back an Obama administration rule intended to better protect the nation’s streams and surface waters, congressional auditors have concluded. [...] “G.A.O.’s finding confirms what I have long suspected, that E.P.A. will go to extreme lengths and even violate the law to promote its activist environmental agenda,” Senator James M. Inhofe of Oklahoma, who is chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee and is pressing to block the rule, said in a statement Monday.
[The key incident] involved the Thunderclap campaign in September 2014, in which the E.P.A. used a new type of social media tool to quickly reach out to 1.8 million people to urge them to support the clean-water proposal. Thunderclap, described as an online flash mob, allows large groups of people to share a single message at once. “Clean water is important to me,” the Thunderclap message said. “I support E.P.A.’s efforts to protect it for my health, my family and my community.” The effort violated federal law, the G.A.O. said, because as it ricocheted around the Internet, many people who received the message would not have known that it was written by the E.P.A., making it covert propaganda.