Sunlight May Push Kerry to the Exits

Sunlight May Push Kerry to the Exits

  • November 2, 2022
Special Presidential Envoy for Climate may flee State Department ahead of promised congressional oversight

Our journey through the maze of muddiness at the State Department began more than a year ago with a simple Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. Protect the Public’s Trust sought certain records involving John Kerry’s Office of the Special Presidential Envoy for Climate (SPEC) at the State Department. In response to an inquiry seeking an update on the status of this request, State declared they would not be able to complete the FOIA request until November 18, 2024, after the next Presidential election. How convenient.

We were left with no recourse than to file a transparency lawsuit against the Department. But the secrecy continued even after State began providing records in response to the suit. In the original production of documents, they redacted the names of every single State Department employee, even the name of the official whose records we specifically asked for, special advisor to Kerry Jesse Young. We are not comforted by the fact that our experience with SPEC is not unique. Quite the opposite. The Boston Herald has reported a similarly frustrating experience with FOIA involving the SPEC office, and other organizations have resorted to litigation for records.

While the records State has produced in response to our lawsuit thus far have afforded just a peek inside the workings of this still-secretive office, they have nevertheless revealed a wealth of interesting and, at times, alarming information about SPEC and its activities. Little wonder they have worked so hard to avoid transparency. Among the revelations contained in the documents were efforts by SPEC officials to keep certain information off “paper” and the influence on Department policy of wealthy and powerful activist organizations outside the government, including apparently those with disturbing ties to hostile foreign governments.

The revelations contained in these records have generated significant concern on the Hill about potential misconduct and the need for proper oversight of SPEC, the State Department, and Kerry. Two committees in particular have sent in document requests indicating a rough road ahead for John Kerry in 2023.

Indeed, according to recent reports, Kerry is apparently surveying his escape route after the elections and November climate conference to avoid congressional scrutiny arising from documents obtained via PPT’s FOIA litigation. The latest disclosure involving a potential version of Operation Choke Point for fossil fuels, a proposal by activist groups for the Biden Administration to ban private investment in coal, will likely only heighten concerns of outsourced climate policy in an era of skyrocketing inflation and energy prices.

“Each additional FOIA production from PPT’s lawsuit offers another glimpse into the Biden Administration’s secretive climate office,” stated Michael Chamberlain, Director of Protect the Public’s Trust. “Apparently this sunlight may be proving too bright for John Kerry. Exposing the backroom negotiations with special interests that appear dead set on ignoring our self-imposed energy crisis is likely to bring substantial congressional scrutiny on a climate office with a significant budget and penchant for keeping their plans off paper. Unfortunately for them, the American public has every right to know what is going on behind the curtain in Kerry’s office and PPT intends to pull that curtain back.”