Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Cintas, Political Contributions and the EPA: Business As Usual In The Nation's Capital

Over a year ago, the Washington Post had a long article about how major contributors to the Bush campaign earned favors worth millions from the EPA. I wrote then and before about the Cintas corporation and how the contributions of their owner, Richard T. Farmer, were succeeding in "encouraging" EPA to relax the regulation of solvent-soaked shop towels.

Spurred on by the Washington Post article, the Environmental Protection Agency's inspector general decided to investigate. Last Friday the IG reported that officials writing an EPA rule appeared to show favoritism to an industry dominated by a major fundraiser for President Bush but that they broke no laws or policies in doing so.

The IG reported that EPA officials had shared an early draft of the regulation with Cintas lobbyists and that shortly after the conversation, the EPA adopted a more lenient standard for the woven towels. According to the IG,
the reason for the change has not been made public. "There is no documentation in the docket to explicitly address EPA's decision for its change in position," the report said.
The report noted that Farmer and members of his family gave more than $700,000 in campaign contributions to Republican causes in 2000-2001 before the EPA adopted the laundries' position on the rule. "There is nothing explicitly wrong with lobbyists giving agency officials wording for federal rules," according to EPA Inspector General Nikki L. Tinsley.

I'm not sure if I'm more upset at the thought that Cintas and their cronies at the EPA have gotten away with something, or the fact that the IG is right. This is just business as usual in Washington.

Just keep moving along. Nothing to see here.