President Donald Trump, lacking trust in the speed, skill or loyalty of the government workers he inherited, is shifting the task of writing U.S. policy to a network of advisory groups stacked with business executives that operates outside of public view.
It’s a move that could be cheered by the voters who sent Trump to Washington to clean house. But it’s also one that might be breaking the law.
In a growing number of cases, the administration has been accused of violating a federal requirement that these advisory groups – working on everything from jobs training to environmental policy – open their meetings, release their documents and announce their members’ names. Three lawsuits have been filed in recent weeks accusing the administration of failing to disclose information about groups charged with investigating voter fraud and devising a plan to upgrade the nation’s crumbling roads and bridges.
The Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, which describes its mission as protecting employees who protect the environment, expects to file suit as soon as this month over the group Trump set up to examine the Environmental Protection Agency’s program to clean up toxic waste. That Superfund group turned over 42 recommendations two weeks ago to EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, who used them to issue 11 new directives.
“These are big kahunas that are supposed to be abiding by basic transparency rules,” said Stephen Spaulding, chief of strategy and external affairs at Common Cause, a nonpartisan group. “It’s as if they are being dragged kicking and screaming into sunshine.”
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