Questions derail another nominee

Another Obama administration nominee withdrew his name Wednesday as questions emerged about a nonprofit group with which he had been affiliated.

Jonathan Z. Cannon, nominated as deputy director of the Environmental Protection Agency, cited questions about the now-defunct America’s Clean Water Foundation, for which he had been a board member. He said he didn’t want to be a distraction.

In 2007, EPA auditors accused the foundation of mismanaging $25 million in taxpayer funds. The foundation had won that much in federal contracts to identify environmental risks at beef, poultry and pork plants, and to help states and Native American tribes comply with the Clean Water Act.

EPA auditors questioned the foundation’s accounting of almost all that money and alluded to allegations of embezzlement. The report did not mention Cannon, who is a professor of environmental law at the University of Virginia and the former top EPA lawyer.


“Today I am voluntarily removing my name from consideration to be deputy administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency,” Cannon said in a statement. “It has come to my attention that America’s Clean Water Foundation . . . has become the subject of scrutiny. While my service on the board of that now-dissolved organization is not the subject of the scrutiny, I believe the energy and environmental challenges facing our nation are too great to delay confirmation for this position, and I do not wish to present any distraction to the agency.”

Cannon’s confirmation hearing had been scheduled for today before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

Matt Dempsey, a spokesman for Sen. James M. Inhofe of Oklahoma, the top Republican on the panel, told the Associated Press that committee staffers had questioned Cannon about the report at a meeting Monday. But Dempsey said the organization’s missteps did not warrant opposing Cannon’s nomination.

Cannon held numerous positions within the EPA during the Reagan, George H.W. Bush and Clinton administrations, eventually rising to general counsel.

Cannon is the latest in a series of Obama appointees to drop out in the midst of controversy.