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Former Trump Official May Have Violated Ethics Code by Participating in Matters That Affected Her Potential Future Employers

Public Citizen * Friends of the Earth * Climate Investigations Center

Oct. 31, 2017

Former Trump Official May Have Violated Ethics Code by Participating in Matters That Affected Her Potential Future Employers

Public Citizen, Friends of the Earth and Climate Investigations Center Ask Ethics Officials to Investigate Conduct of Former Interior Department Official Megan Bloomgren

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Public Citizen, Friends of the Earth and the Climate Investigations Center on Tuesday asked the U.S. Department of the Interior to investigate (PDF) whether a former top official violated a federal ethics code by participating in matters in which her potential future employers had financial interests.

Megan Bloomgren, who was hired in January to be acting deputy chief of staff and communications director at the Interior Department, may have discussed post-government employment with the American Petroleum Institute (API) and the DCI Group, an energy industry lobbying firm, at the time that she participated in Interior Department meetings regarding President Donald Trump’s executive orders affecting oil and gas interests, such as offshore drilling and national monuments designations. API, DCI Group and many of their members and clients appear to have financial interests in these matters.

Bloomgren’s participation should be investigated as a potential violation of a federal ethics law prohibiting U.S. government employees from being involved in matters that financially affect people or organizations with which the employee is negotiating, or has an arrangement, for prospective employment, the groups maintain. That law ensures that government employees’ conduct is dedicated solely to advancing the public interest and not their own private financial gain.

If Bloomgren is found to have violated the ethics code, the matter should be referred to the U.S. Department of Justice, the groups said in their letter (PDF) to the Interior Department’s Office of Ethics.

“We are concerned that members of this administration are using government service to line their personal pockets,” said Ben Schreiber, senior political strategist at Friends of the Earth. “Where the facts suggest such unethical conduct, it is crucial that the agency investigate whether a government position was used for personal profit instead of to serve the best interests of the American people.”

“With the Trump administration, there is no apparent separation between the regulators and the regulated,” said Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen. “So it’s no surprise that a top official in the Interior Department would seek employment with the oil and gas industry trade association. What Bloomgren did is plainly unethical; the question ethics officials must investigate is: Was it illegal?”

The groups base their complaint on a chronology of Bloomgren’s time at the Interior Department, compiled from news clips, Zinke’s calendar and other materials.