WASHINGTON D.C. – At a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing, U.S. Representative Bonnie Watson Coleman questioned Rebeckah Adcock, senior advisor at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, on her refusal to provide the committee with the identities of the members on the agency’s Regulatory Reform Task Force. At the hearing, Adcock recalled the list had been sent by the Department’s congressional liaison to the committee earlier in the week – Democratic staff later confirmed the list was provided to Republican committee staff the morning of the hearing following the New York Times report of her refusal and a violation of an ethics agreement following a meeting with her former industry allies.
Watson Coleman asked, “Ms. Adcock, who are the members of the regulatory task force that you lead; what are their respective backgrounds; and, what is their status as a political appointee or civil servant?”
“I apologize if your colleagues felt I had brushed off that request, my intention was to share with them that we had not made the list public, hadn’t asked the members if whether that would be acceptable and if we could share that list,” Adcock responded.
Watson Coleman continued, “This is a particularly unique situation and, the decisions that these individuals will consider have a tremendous impact on the constituencies that I define as the United States of America. These are very important considerations that are going to take place and transparency is very important as well as ensuring that there are no conflicts of interest in the deliberations of these issues as conflict of interest has arisen very much in the current Administration.”
Watson Coleman also asked the witness representing the Department of Health and Human Services to provide the committee with the names of the agency’s task force members, and also called on subcommittee Chairman Gary Palmer to request this information from all federal agencies. The joint subcommittee hearing entitled “Regulatory Reform Task Forces Check-In: Part II” sought to examine the progress made by federal agencies in setting up a Regulatory Reform Task Force as defined by Executive Order 13777 Enforcing the Regulatory Reform Agenda, to supplement Executive Order 13771 Reducing Regulation and Controlling Regulatory Costs.
Following the hearing, Watson Coleman sent a letter to Adcock, a former pesticide lobbyist, requesting the release of all emails she exchanged with lobbyists or other representatives from her former industry.
Excerpt from the letter:
“The same New York Times story also reported that you entered into an ethics agreement in which you pledged, for one year, to “not participate personally and substantially in any particular matter involving specific parties in which I know CropLife America is a party or represents a party.” According to this same report, however, you met with Kellie Bray, a lobbyist for CropLife, in May—soon after you started at USDA.
Please answer the following questions and produce the documents requested below regarding this matter:
- Please list the dates, times, and subject matter of all meetings with Ms. Bray or any other CropLife officials, representatives, or agents since you began working at USDA.
- Please provide copies of all inquiries to and responses from any ethics officials relating to the propriety of your participation in these meetings.
Please provide copies of all emails to or from you with lobbyists, employees, or representatives of any pesticide manufacturer or associated groups.”