Trump’s Cabinet is So Corrupt, Polluters Don’t Even Need Lobbyists Any More

 

Trump Administration “draining the swamp”?

SWAMP WATCH

And it gets worse. During the shutdown, David Bernhardt became acting head of the Department of Interior. On top of that, the Center for Western Priorities’ Jesse Prentice-Dunn found that the agency issued 71 permits for offshore oil drilling during the shutdown–53 of which were for former clients of Bernhardt’s from the offshore drilling trade group for which he used to lobby.

Similarly, there were 37 onshore drilling permits issued while the rest of the government wasn’t allowed to work. Of those, 20 were for companies that Bernhardt worked for on behalf of two different fossil fuel organizations, the Independent Petroleum Association of American and US Oil and Gas Association.”

Trump’s Cabinet is So Corrupt, Polluters Don’t Even Need Lobbyists Any More

Despite campaigning with a promise to “drain the swamp,” Trump has since his first day in office appointed numerous lobbyists to run the federal government, including Andrew Wheeler at the EPA and David Bernhardt at Interior. Basically everyone was suspicious about whether these appointees would serve the public or their former employers–and rightfully so.

While these lobbyists could use their deep understanding of the regulatory system and industry they’re regulating to protect the public and environment, that hasn’t been the way things played out.

For example: yesterday the AP reported that the Bureau of Land Management is going to go ahead and sell oil and gas leases on land near sites sacred to Native Americans in New Mexico. As it turns out, for some reason the government shutdown didn’t halt this process. Apparently, keeping national parks free of literal shit isn’t vital, but keeping the fossil fuel industry happy is.

And it gets worse. During the shutdown, David Bernhardt became acting head of the Department of Interior. On top of that, the Center for Western Priorities’ Jesse Prentice-Dunn found that the agency issued 71 permits for offshore oil drilling during the shutdown–53 of which were for former clients of Bernhardt’s from the offshore drilling trade group for which he used to lobby.

Similarly, there were 37 onshore drilling permits issued while the rest of the government wasn’t allowed to work. Of those, 20 were for companies that Bernhardt worked for on behalf of two different fossil fuel organizations, the Independent Petroleum Association of American and US Oil and Gas Association.

Did these companies get special treatment because their former lobbyist is now calling the shots? Or is it just a coincidence that Bernhardt decided to go the extra mile to make sure his former clients weren’t  as inconvenienced as his new employees were by the shutdown?

Meanwhile, over at the EPA, it’s no secret that acting head Andrew Wheeler has been fulfilling the (literal) wishlist of his former lobbying client Murray Energy.

Apparently, Wheeler’s been so good at his “job” that Murray decided it doesn’t need to keep paying Wheeler’s old lobbying firm. Alex Kaufman at the Huffington Post reported yesterday that Murray canceled its contract with Faegre Baker Daniels Consulting, just six days after Wheeler testified to the Senate as part of his confirmation process to be the actual, not just acting, head of the EPA.

As former EPA regional administrator Judith Enck told Kaufmann, “Murray Energy has cut out the middleman. They’ve got their pro-coal guy in the driver’s seat at the EPA.”

This is certainly troubling. But as always, it gets worse. Virginia Canter of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) explained to HuffPo that terminating its contract with Wheeler’s old employer actually means Murray may be able to get even more access to Wheeler. Terminating its contract may allow Murray to skirt the Trump administration’s (already-weak) ethics pledge preventing officials from meeting with former employers for at least two years after taking office.

As Canter explains, “if Murray Energy goes to another firm, they could get a meeting before Wheeler personally.” In this case, Wheeler wouldn’t technically be meeting with a former employer.

It seems that when your business model requires destroying public health and the environment, there’s no such thing as having “too much influence” at the agencies filled with people who have dedicated their career to protecting public health and the environment.

Former lobbyists Wheeler and Bernhardt may technically be acting heads of EPA and DOI, but it’s clear on whose behalf they’re actually acting. And it ain’t Americans.

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