Four ways for Democrats to root out Republican corruption

by Nicole Ghio, senior fossil fuels program manager

The blue wave that crashed onto the Republican Party tonight now gives us the power to resist the corruption of the Trump administration.

  • Deputy Secretary David Bernhardt’s former clients, from his time as a high-paid industry lawyer and lobbyist, began receiving favorable treatment after his confirmation, despite Bernhardt signing ethics pledges not to involve himself in issues related to his previous work. DOI is now facing litigation from Friends of the Earth, Western Values Project and others for failing to release Bernhardt’s ethics documents.
  • Zinke misused taxpayer money to pay for travel for his wife and political donors, and to take his wife on vacation in Turkey. Zinke also hired a high school friend for a position at DOI that he was unqualified for.
  • Zinke and top DOI officials have used departmental actions and resources to boost GOP electoral candidates. This includes suggesting that Florida would be exempt from offshore drilling after a staged meeting with Senate hopeful Rick Scott, attending a GOP fundraiser in the Virgin Islands while on work travel and announcing a grant to Pennsylvania during a special election.
  • Trump and Zinke rolled back the coal valuation rule, which closed loopholes that allowed coal companies to cheat taxpayers out of royalties for coal mined on public lands.
  • DOI and the Bureau of Land Management attacked our bedrock environmental law, the National Environmental Protection Act, which ensures proposals have adequate review and that the public has a voice in decisions about projects in their communities. Instead, DOI shortened public comment periods and made them optional instead of mandatory.
  • DOI is pushing to open over 90 percent of the Outer Continental Shelf to drilling despite overwhelming opposition from coastal communities and governors.
  • DOI is rushing to hand the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge over to the oil industry, putting this important habitat for polar bears, caribou and rare migratory birds at risk, and threatening the indigenous Gwich’in people who have relied on the Porcupine Caribou Herd for thousands of years.
Caribou in Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
  • Top DOI officials have repeatedly failed to document their actions in what appears to be a concerted effort to avoid leaving a paper trail. This includes failing to document the rationale behind senior staff reassignments that disproportionately targeted climate scientists and Native Americans.
  • Under the Freedom of Information Act, the public has a right to request documents about how our government conducts business. But DOI is leaving their FOIA office critically understaffed and failing to provide documents in a timely manner. As a result, the public has been forced to file lawsuits to get information from DOI. FOIA litigation against DOI was up 62 percent in 2017.
  • Zinke reportedly told several DOI employees that he doesn’t “care about diversity.” In addition, DOI reassignments of senior career civil servants disproportionately targeted Native Americans.
  • DOI was sued by Connecticut tribes for stopping two proposed casinos after lobbying from MGM, a former client of Deputy Secretary David Bernhardt’s firm.
  • The Mashpee tribe has filed a complaint against DOI for taking their land out of trust, which means they could lose their reservation.

Friends of the Earth U.S. defends the environment and champions a healthy and just world. www.foe.org

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