GOP lawmaker asks Interior IG to audit ethics office after watchdog complaint

GOP lawmaker asks Interior IG to audit ethics office after watchdog complaint

  • January 28, 2022

Juliette Fairley, Legal Newsline

The credibility of the Department of Interior’s ethics office is at stake if it is allowed to continue to dodge questions about employees who have appearances of conflicts of interest based on previous work affiliations, according to a GOP lawmaker.

Arkansas Congressman Bruce Westerman called for an audit in a letter to Interior Department’s Inspector General Mark Greenblatt after the Washington Examiner reported last week that Interior Secretary Deb Haaland’s senior counselor, Elizabeth Klein, failed to fully reveal to ethics officials the scope of her deputy director job at the State Energy & Environmental Impact Center (SEEIC), which is funded by billionaire and climate litigation advocate Michael Bloomberg.

On Jan. 18, Protect the Public’s Trust (PPT) and Energy Policy Advocates (EPA) jointly filed a complaint with Greenblatt and Heather Gottry, the Interior Department’s designated agency ethics official, requesting an investigation into potential misrepresentation by Klein with respect to previous client relationships.

“The reason for the ethics laws that exist is so that people will come into the federal government and make decisions based on the merits and the facts of the decisions and not make decisions based on what might potentially benefit their former employers or former clients or other people that they have a covered relationship with including family members,” said Michael Chamberlain, director of PPT. “That’s one of the reasons why conflict of interest laws are in place is to prevent that.”

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