It’s no secret that President Trump has filled his cabinet and staff with lobbyists and former oil, gas, coal and chemical industry allies. In fact, President Trump’s administration has the most former lobbyists in the cabinet of any administration in history. These “Dirty Deputies” are now in charge of overseeing decisions that benefit the companies they were working for just months earlier.
President Trump himself has close ties to oil, gas, and coal companies and their CEOs. He has accepted millions in donations from fossil fuel companies, and notably, he keeps a very close relationship with infamous coal baron Bob Murray of Murray Energy, consistently delivering on many of Murray’s personal policy priorities. But while this culture of corruption starts at the top, the influence of the fossil fuel industry goes far beyond the White House and runs through every agency in charge of protecting America’s air, water, land, and health.
Here’s everything you need to know about Trump’s Dirty Deputies:
Department of the Interior (DOI)
Leading Trump’s Department of the Interior is Secretary David Bernhardt. Bernhardt is a former oil and gas lobbyist and according to a CAP analysis, has the dubious distinction of being the “most conflicted” of all 31 of Trump’s cabinet-level nominees. The acting secretary has become a central figure in Interior’s carefully constructed system for dispensing political favors, including to many of Bernhardt’s former clients and employers.
Bernhardt’s team includes:
● William Perry Pendley, Deputy Director, Policy and Programs and performing the duties of the Director, Bureau of Land Management: The former president of the anti-conservation Mountain States Legal Foundation, which frequently sued federal agencies to challenge conservation policies, Pendley has spent his career fighting against the very existence of public lands.
● Scott Angelle, Director, Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement: After serving as Louisiana’s Secretary of Natural Resources where he advocated for an end to the moratorium on Gulf Coast drilling that was put in place after the devastating BP spill, Angelle made more than $1 million from his seat on the board of an oil and gas pipeline company before heading to Interior.
● Kathy Benedetto, Senior Advisor, Bureau of Land Management: Benedetto co-founded the “Women’s Mining Coalition” nonprofit, and worked for close to 20 years in the mining industry. Benedetto was criticized in March 2018 for meeting with far more mining and fossil fuel representatives than environmentalists.
● Doug Domenech, Assistant Secretary of the Interior, Insular Areas: In addition to lobbying for the oil and gas industry, before joining the Trump administration Domenech directed a program at the Koch-funded Texas Public Policy Foundation to promote the “moral case for fossil fuels.”
● James Cason, Associate Deputy Secretary of the Interior: Cason has been described as a “100 percent corporation man” and is a former oil and gas lobbyist.
● Scott Cameron, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy, Management and Budget: Cameron is a former lobbyist and congressional staffer who has worked at firms that represent Shell Oil, Marcellus Shale Coalition and more.
● Daniel Jorjani, Solicitor: Jorjani was previously one of the “highest paid employees” in the Koch network. Despite his significant conflicts and legal opinions that have been rejected by courts, he now serves as DOI’s top legal officer and is already under investigation by the Department’s Inspector General.
● Susan Combs, Assistant Secretary for Policy, Management and Budget: Combs, who is overseeing an agency-wide reorganization plan supported by the oil and gas industry, received possibly as much as $2.1 million in recent years from oil companies that stand to benefit.
● Karen Budd-Falen, Deputy Solicitor for Parks and Wildlife: Budd-Falen previously worked alongside Pendley at the Mountain States League Foundation, where she aligned with anti-government ranchers, including the Bundy family.
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
In February 2019, Andrew Wheeler was confirmed to lead of the Environmental Protection Agency after serving as Deputy under disgraced former administrator Scott Pruitt. As a former lobbyist, Wheeler’s highest-paying client was major coal company Murray Energy. Now, as head of EPA, Wheeler has followed directly in Pruitt’s footsteps by undoing protections for our health to instead benefit fossil fuel companies, and has made serious headway on coal magnate and Trump donor Bob Murray’s wishlist.
Wheeler’s team includes:
● Mandy Gunasekara, Chief of Staff and former Principal Deputy Assistant Administrator, Office of Air and Radiation: Gunasekara previously served in the EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation for 8 months beginning in March 2017. During that time, she pushed for policies to roll back rules targeted at limiting greenhouse gas emissions such as the Clean Power Plan. Prior to working at the EPA, Gunasekara was a staffer for Oklahoma Senator James Inhofe, something she has in common with her predecessor Ryan Jackson. She handed Inhofe the snowball that he famously brought on the Senate Floor in an effort to debunk climate change.
● David Fischer, Deputy Assistant Administrator, Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention: Fischer is an industry lawyer who most recently worked at public affairs firm IBEX Partners LLC; before that he spent a decade as a senior director at the American Chemistry Council, which represents the majority of U.S. chemical companies.
● Alexandra Dunn, Assistant Administrator, Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention: Dunn formerly worked for the American Chemistry Council, which includes industry groups that she is now tasked with regulating.
● Susan Bodine, Assistant Administrator, Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance: Bodine, who oversees enforcement for the EPA, previously litigated on behalf of many polluting companies responsible for Superfund sites.
● Peter Wright, Assistant Administrator, Office of Land and Emergency Management: Wright oversees the nation’s toxic waste sites clean-up program, even though his former employer — chemical company DowDuPont — is responsible or partially responsible for 14% of those sites.
● David Dunlap, Deputy Assistant Administrator, Office of Research and Development: Dunlap, a former chemical engineer for Koch Industries, has a potential conflict of interest when it comes to regulating formaldehyde — which the EPA suppressed a report about in 2018 — given that one of the largest producers of formaldehyde in the country, Georgia-Pacific Chemicals LLC, is a Koch Industries subsidiary that lobbied against the study being released.
● Resigned after investigation announced: Bill Wehrum, Assistant Administrator, Office of Air and Radiation. While as an attorney and lobbyist at the firm Hunton & Williams, Wehrum represented polluting clients in over 31 lawsuits against the EPA. Wehrum also previously served in the EPA during the last Bush administration, where he took similarly square aim at various air and climate protections; under the Trump administration he worked to carry out the rollbacks he put in place over a decade ago. Wehrum resigned at the end of June 2019, after the EPA announced its weak rule to repeal and replace the Clean Power Plan, in the face of an investigation from the House Energy and Commerce Committee into his conflicts of interest.
● Left the EPA for VP of Government Affairs position at the National Mining Association (NMA): Ryan Jackson, Chief of Staff. Jackson served as Chief of Staff to both EPA Administrators Pruitt and Wheeler since joining the Trump administration in 2017; earlier in his career, Jackson worked for Oklahoma Senator Jim Inhofe for many years. His decision to leave the EPA came just days after the agency announced their final rule to significantly cut back clean water protections — a top priority of NMA and its members who have spent millions lobbying against it. Jackson spent most of his EPA tenure involved in the scandals of Scott Pruitt and frequently refused to cooperate with the EPA’s internal inspector general. He was known as a friend to the industries he was tasked to regulate — never refusing meetings with lobbyists and industry executives and quietly resolving enforcement cases with little punishment for the polluting party.
Department of Energy (DOE)
After former Energy Secretary Rick Perry resigned towards the end of 2019, Dan Brouillette was confirmed by the Senate in December 2019 as the new Secretary of Energy. Brouillette, a former lobbyist for Ford Motor Company, has been serving as Deputy Energy Secretary under Rick Perry since 2017. This confirmation serves as another example of the trend of lobbyists holding cabinet positions.
Brouillette is expected to continue to push the agenda set by Perry, such as attempting to subsidize coal and nuclear plants and selling American liquefied natural gas abroad. In addition to being a former lobbyist, Brouillette has previously served at the DOE under the George W. Bush administration, and was Chief of Staff for the House Energy and Commerce Committee. He had also been a member of the Louisiana Mineral and Energy board from 2013 to 2016.
Brouillette’s team includes:
● Brian McCormack, Chief of Staff: Prior to his role as DOE’s Chief of Staff, McCormack worked at Edison Electric Institute, where he lobbied against rooftop solar power.
● Mark Menezes, Under Secretary of Energy: Menezes previously lobbied for several different electric utility companies and trade groups, including American Electric Power, Duke Energy, Edison Electric Institute, Southern Company, and Koch Mineral Services.
● Mark Maddox, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Fossil Energy: Maddox previously worked in DOE’s Fossil Energy office during the George W. Bush administration, before spending several years as a lobbyist for a variety of petroleum, coal, and utility companies.
● Paul Dabbar, Under Secretary for Science: Dabbar has advised myriad fossil fuel companies and electric utilities in the past, including TransCanada, Allete, AES, and Dynegy.
● Bill Cooper, General Counsel: Cooper has long-held ties to the natural gas industry. He had previously served as the president of the Center for Liquefied Natural Gas and has represented the interests of the fossil fuel industry as a lobbyist and attorney.
● Douglas Matheney, Assistant to the Secretary: Matheny worked in the coal industry for nearly 20 years, before lobbying for two different coal trade associations and the Koch-founded group Americans for Prosperity.
● Steven Winberg, Assistant Secretary for Fossil Energy: Winberg has spent his career working for the coal and natural gas industry, most recently as Vice President for CONSOL Energy. In May 2019, Winberg referred to natural gas as “molecules of U.S. freedom” in an official DOE press release.
● Daniel Simmons, Assistant Secretary, Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy: Simmons was previously vice president for policy at the Institute for Energy Research and a research fellow at Mercatus Center — both Koch-backed think tanks.
● Alex Fitzsimmons, Senior Advisor and Deputy Assistant Secretary, Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy: Fitzsimmons previously worked for two Koch-funded organizations: the Institute for Energy Research, and Fueling U.S. Forward, a campaign that promoted fossil fuel use.
● Suzanne Jaworowski, Senior Advisor, Nuclear Energy: Now an assistant to Secretary Perry, Jaworowski previously worked as a consultant for a coal company and energy utility.
● Resigned after suspicious involvement in the Ukraine scandal: Rick Perry, Energy Secretary. Perry resigned from DOE in December after news broke of his possible involvement in the Ukraine scandal and larger controversy surrounding President Trump’s impeachment inquiry. During his time as head of DOE, Perry pushed for increasing the export of American liquified natural gas (which he termed “freedom gas”), worked to follow through on recommendations given to DOE by coal baron Bob Murray, and suggested reviving the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste facility. Prior to being confirmed to the DOE, Perry, who once proposed eliminating the Department of Energy while Governor of Texas, was on the board of Energy Transfer Partners, whose clients included the Dakota Access Pipeline. He was also on the board of Sunoco Logistics Partners, another fossil fuel industry-linked group.