EPA chief cancels DSCC appearance

Maggie Haberman & Ben Smith

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson, scheduled to headline a fundraiser for Senate Democrats next week in Manhattan, cancelled her appearance Tuesday afternoon, hours after a POLITICO story about the event sparked Republican criticism that it was inappropriate in the midst of the ongoing environmental crisis along the Louisiana coast.

An EPA spokesman said Jackson was cancelling her appearance at the June 4th breakfast sponsored by the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee because she’s focused on the clean-up of the BP oil spill.

“She’s not going,” said Allyn Brooks-LaSure, a spokesman at the agency, adding that “her priority has continued to be protecting human health and the environment” after the spill.

An aide said Jackson was invited to attend the fundraiser on March 12, well before the oil spill, and added that she had canceled her appearance at several events since the disaster, including the White House Correspondents’ dinner, the TIME 100 banquet, and a long-scheduled foreign trip. The aide said she was just coming back to Washington from her latest trip to the region when the POLITICO story broke.

Aides didn’t immediately respond to questions about why they waited until late in the day to alert the DSCC she wasn’t coming.

An e-mail sent to potential donors and attendees by Rafi Jafri, a Democratic fundraiser who has official role with the DSSC, said the event next month is being hosted by New Jersey PR man Michael Kempner.

In an e-mail to prospective attendees, Jafri wrote that the breakfast “promises to be intimate, so each of you will have a real opportunity to get to know and to speak to Lisa about issues of concern to you and our nation.”

“As many of you know, Lisa is on the front line of all environmental and energy policy in the United States and around the world,” Jafri’s e-mail reads.

Republicans had ripped Jackson’s upcoming appearance as an example of the administration’s warped priorities.

“When the oil slick first spread, we learned the Interior Department’s chief of staff was rafting down the Grand Canyon, and now that it’s reached our shores, the president is in California raising money for Barbara Boxer, while the head of the EPA makes plans to raise more campaign cash in New York City,” said Brian Walsh, a spokesman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee

“Clearly, this Administration’s priorities are grossly misplaced when vacations and campaign fundraisers are more important than focusing on one of the greatest environmental disasters in our nation’s history.”

Louisiana GOP Rep. Steve Scalise said he wanted to see “more of a sense of urgency from the administration as a whole. We’ve been very frustrated that the president hasn’t been focused properly on the requests that we’ve been making.”

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