EPA Approves Revolving Door Relationship for Senior Biden Official
- June 5, 2023
Biden appointee authorization allows participation in outside entity that routinely engages in agency matters
New documents obtained by Protect the Public’s Trust reveal that an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Deputy General Counsel, Susannah Weaver, was granted a special exemption from ethics rules allowing her to maintain a high-profile role on the Georgetown University Law Center’s Board of Visitors. The role, which apparently involves fundraising duties, raises eyebrows for several reasons, most notably that components of the Law Center routinely involve themselves in litigation and other matters involving EPA.
Georgetown Law, and component parts such as the Georgetown Climate Center, has a long history of advocating on pending policy matters and at times directly participating in legal matters before the EPA. Permitting a senior political official to maintain an ongoing relationship with a special interest such as Georgetown would historically have been a non-starter. It is unclear what extenuating circumstances justified the EPA’s unusual decision. Records also show that Ms. Weaver had to be instructed at least twice by the Ethics Office to remove her EPA title from the Board’s website, demonstrating the blurred lines between her official duties and private commitments.
In 2022, Georgetown Law and its components filed briefs in two of the most consequential Supreme Court cases in which EPA was a party. While Ms. Weaver was barred from participating in the cases, the outcome of each had clear implications for how the agency could exercise its statutory authority. As it turns out, an essential function of Ms. Weaver’s General Counsel Office is to assess how to advance major administration priorities using its statutory authority.
Of further concern is that Georgetown Law Center’s Climate Center has submitted recommendations directly to EPA about how the agency should allocate the “infusion of funding” it received from passage of the Inflation Reduction Act. The Center’s recommendations include using the funds for “multiple new IRA programs” and to finance states’ hiring of “third-party consultants.” It is unclear how Georgetown might share in this largess or whether Ms. Weaver has any role in its distribution. Further, this appears to be part of a continuing series of engagements of the Georgetown Climate Center in EPA matters.
While the circumstances surrounding Ms. Weaver’s special treatment appear inconsistent with traditional agency practices, the deep relationships between many other Biden EPA appointees and powerful environmental special interests appear to have created similar concerns in other instances. For example, Christopher Frey, the agency’s top science official, was ultimately forced to resign his adjunct professorship at a Chinese university after PPT revealed this ongoing employment relationship, and Joe Goffman, the agency’s top air regulator, has seen his nomination stalled as revelations over potential ethics violations have surfaced.
“Most citizens are aware of and understandably nauseated by the so-called ‘revolving door’ where connected individuals leave positions in the private sector to work in the government and then return to the private sector,” said Michael Chamberlain, Director of Protect the Public’s Trust. “Here, it seems Ms. Weaver may have found something even better than the revolving door, a breezeway that allows her to operate in the public and private sectors at the same time. Given the appearance of impropriety, one questions why EPA would allow Ms. Weaver to serve in a position that appears to engage in fundraising for an outside special interest that routinely involves itself in EPA matters, while simultaneously serving at the highest levels of the agency. Once again, despite the Biden Administration’s claim to be the most ethical in history, it seems this may be just the latest example of special treatment being doled out no matter the appearance or the potential for conflict.”