Congressional Republicans are now accusing the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) of giving preferential treatment to environmental groups over conservative think tanks, when it comes to requesting records under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). The Senators likened this alleged preferential treatment to the recent Internal Revenue Service/Tea Party discrimination debacle.

Senators James Inhofe (R-OK), a notorious climate science denier, David Vitter (R-LA), Charles Grassley (R-IA), and Darrell Issa (R-CA) sent a letter to the Acting Administrator of the EPA, Bob Perciasepe, on Friday, accusing the agency of manipulating the FOIA fee waiver process by “readily” granting fee waivers for FOIA requests for “liberal environmental groups” while denying fee waivers for states and conservative groups.

The EPA is now undergoing an investigation after the conservative senators brought up the charges last week during a House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing, where they compared the EPA’s alleged actions to the “IRS’s targeting of conservative groups,” according to The Hill.

The data the senators are using as their basis for such claims is a study done by the conservative Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), an anti-environmentalist group with long ties to tobacco misinformation campaign. It calls itself a “non-profit, non-partisan research and advocacy institute dedicated to the principles of free enterprise and limited government.” According to SourceWatch, “CEI projects dispute the overwhelming scientific evidence that human-induced greenhouse gas emissions are driving climate change.”

CEI rejects anthropogenic climate change and pushes the property rights movement, a branch of the Wise Use Movement (an industry front and anti-environmentalist organization) that argues that “regulations protecting environmentally sensitive areas on private property are unconstitutional ‘takings.’”

The group has misrepresented scientific research in the past. In one case, the company was called out by a University of Missouri professor, whose study was misused in ad. He said their 2006 ad campaigns to “counter global warming alarmism” were “a deliberate effort to confuse and mislead the public about the global warming debate,”

The group is funded, among others, by Koch Family Foundations, Amoco, Texaco, and Philip Morris Companies, Inc. In 2006, the Washington Post reported CEI’s most generous sponsors for their 2005 annual meeting: “the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, Exxon Mobil, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, and Pfizer. Other contributors included General Motors, the American Petroleum Institute, the American Plastics Council, the Chlorine Chemistry Council and Arch Coal.”

Alisha is a writer and researcher for Ring of Fire.