Using taxpayer dollars, the Environmental Protection Agency has hired a cutting-edge Republican PR firm that specializes in digging up opposition research to help Administrator Scott Pruitt’s office track and shape press coverage of the agency.
According to federal contracting records, earlier this month Pruitt’s office inked a no-bid $120,000 contract with Definers Corp., a Virginia-based public relations firm founded by Matt Rhoades, who managed Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign. Following Romney’s defeat, Rhoades established America Rising, an ostensibly independent political action committee that works closely with the Republican National Committee and Republican candidates to mine damning information on opponents. Other higher-ups at Definers include former RNC research director Joe Pounder, who’s been described as “a master of opposition research,” and senior vice president Colin Reed, an oppo-research guru billed as “among the leaders of the war on [Sen. Elizabeth] Warren.”
This for-profit consulting firm offers a variety of public relations services such as digital strategy, political consulting, and media relations. According to its website, Definers’ clients include Fortune 500 corporations, political groups, and nonprofits. In the past, both Marco Rubio and John McCain used their services, and since the 2016 election so has Rep. Diane Black (R-Tenn.). The client list for America Rising includes the RNC, Republican candidates such as Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Penn.), and super-PACs such as the Mitch McConnell-linked Senate Leadership Fund and Karl Rove’s American Crossroads.