Watchdogs Open Ethics Probe on Interior04/24 06:46
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Interior Department's internal watchdog confirmed on
Tuesday that it is investigating allegations of ethical misconduct by senior
political appointees at the agency, an announcement that comes a week after the
disclosure of a similar investigation of newly confirmed Secretary David
Both investigations by the Interior Department's Office of the Inspector
General were prompted by allegations that senior Trump administration
appointees at the agency had been involved with department decision-making on
issues involving former employers or lobbying clients.
"We hope this investigation will answer whether these officials are working
on behalf of the American people, or on behalf of the interests that used to
pay their salary," said Delaney Marsco, ethics counsel at the nonprofit,
nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center, which asked for the new probe.
Citing Interior appointment calendars and other documents, the group asked
the agency's internal investigators to look into whether a half dozen senior
agency officials were involved in Interior actions dealing with their former
employers, including a conservative Texas think-tank and the National Rifle
For example, the group cited calendar items that it said showed Interior
assistant secretary Doug Domenech met with his former employer, the Texas
Public Policy Foundation, on litigation between the think-tank and Interior
over endangered-species protections.
Trump administration ethics pledges limit dealings on regulatory matters
that senior political appointees can have with former employers.
Spokeswoman Nancy DiPaolo of Interior's Office of the Inspector General
confirmed that another investigation had begun, but declined to identify the
officials under scrutiny or say how many were now under investigation.
Interior Department spokeswoman Faith Vander Voort said in an email that the
agency's ethics office had "reviewed each matter, and provided materials to the
chief of staff, who has taken appropriate actions."
She declined to elaborate on what actions were taken.
Democratic senators had sought the earlier-announced internal investigation
of Bernhardt. Their complaint centered on allegations Bernhardt was involved in
Interior Department deliberations with former lobbying clients, including a
politically influential California water agency.