PPT Forced to Take Interior to Court to Shed Light on Potential Conflicts of Interest
- February 17, 2022
Watchdog files lawsuit regarding Department #2’s “massive amount of conflict”
Today, Protect the Public’s Trust announced additional lawsuits against the Department of the Interior. This latest set involves Freedom of Information Act requests that date back to May of last year and seek communications involving the Department’s current Deputy Secretary and his former employer.
The financial disclosure report for Tommy Beaudreau, who was confirmed as the Department’s Deputy Secretary last year, revealed nearly three dozen clients, including “numerous companies with potential business before the Interior Department, from fossil fuel drilling and pipeline firms to offshore wind developers,” according to a media report. These potential conflicts were described as “pretty disqualifying” and “a massive amount of conflict” by another public interest group at the time. At the very least, the extensive work he engaged in with clients heavily involved in matters before the Department presented the potential for conflicts of interest that he is required to avoid. In May, PPT sought communications between Mr. Beaudreau and others at his former employer with employees at the Department in an attempt to shed light on his interactions while he was a lobbyist who frequently found himself inside the Interior Department during the previous administration.
The information sought in the requests is of heightened interest because of concerns about the general ethical climate for senior leadership at Interior. PPT and others, including members of Congress, have revealed a series of incidents of possible ethical misconduct, including at least one that has generated an investigation by the Inspector General. One senator expressed “frustration” and “real anger” over an incident a high-ranking Department leader admitted was not “acceptable.”
“What we’ve encountered at the Department of the Interior is a series of incidents that raise concerns of misconduct combined with a pattern of noncompliance with the agency’s obligations for transparency,” Michael Chamberlain, Director of Protect the Public’s Trust, said. “The more this pattern is repeated, the more the American public questions what the Department and its leadership may be trying to hide. Interior has a long way to go to live up to the Administration’s claims to be the most ethical and transparent in history.”