June 3, 2021 –
Today, House Committee on Natural Resources Ranking Member Bruce Westerman (R-Ark), Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations Ranking Member Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) and U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) sent a letter to U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) senior counselor to the secretary Elizabeth Klein and DOI’s designated agency ethics official Heather Gottry, raising concerns over Klein’s potential conflicts of interest. Klein has failed to provide the committee with her recusal list, despite committing to produce it. To fully understand the ethical constraints on Klein’s work at DOI, the members reiterated their request for Klein’s recusal list, as well as her ethics pledge and additional information. In part, the members wrote:
“Senior leaders at federal agencies are responsible for fostering cultures of ethical conduct. Employees unable to act impartially are not qualified to perform their role in government. To ensure appropriate conduct, the U.S. Office of Government Ethics (OGE) issues ethical standards by which all executive branch employees must abide. OGE standards require employees to ‘place loyalty to the Constitution, the laws, and ethical principles above private gain’ and ‘act impartially and not give preferential treatment to any private organization or individual.’ Transparency is key to ensuring federal employees’ compliance with OGE’s standards.
“Prior to Ms. Klein’s current position as Senior Counselor to the Secretary, she was the Deputy Director at the New York University School of Law’s State Energy & Environmental Impact Center (SEEIC). During Ms. Klein’s tenure, the SEEIC, established through a six-million-dollar donation from former presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg, controversially placed and paid the salaries of legal fellows in state attorneys general offices to advance Mr. Bloomberg’s environmental agenda. In just the first year of the program, SEEIC fellows participated in filing at least 130 regulatory, legal, and other challenges to federal environmental policies.
“Ms. Klein’s placement of fellows was criticized because the program used ‘special interest money for targeted government action.’ Several state attorneys general opposed the use of SEEIC fellows in their offices. For example, the Office of the Attorney General of Wisconsin determined SEEIC’s program was illegal and would create a conflict of interest…
“As Senior Counselor to the Secretary, Ms. Klein is subject to President Biden’s ethics standards. Therefore, for two years, Ms. Klein is prohibited from participating in ‘any particular matter involving specific parties that is directly and substantially related to [her] former employer or former clients, including regulations and contracts.’ Under these standards, Ms. Klein’s participation in the decision making process for any issue related to the specific regulatory or legal challenges advocated by SEEIC fellows she placed in state attorneys general offices is questionable at best.”
Read the full letter here.
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