Protect the Public’s Trust Commends Watchdog Group for Lawsuit Seeking Ethics Documents on “Walking Conflict of Interest”

Does the Department of the Interior have something to hide in its handling of Elizabeth Klein’s potential conflicts?

Today, Protect the Public’s Trust today commended Energy Policy Advocates (EPA) for its lawsuit demanding the Department of the Interior turn over basic information concerning Elizabeth Klein’s enormous conflicts of interest. As the Secretary’s top lawyer, Ms. Klein’s conflicts present a major liability for the Department. Their response to EPA’s request for information only raises the level of concern over how it is handling her relationship with former clients.

“The American public could rightly wonder if the Department of the Interior thinks it has something to hide,” said Michael Chamberlain, Director of Protect the Public’s Trust, a non-profit organization focused on compliance in government. “The Department has placed unnecessary roadblocks in the way of a simple request for information. Considering the massive volume of potential conflicts Elizabeth Klein brings to her high-level post it might be easier to list the very few matters that don’t present a conflict for her. With Interior’s stonewalling, it’s no wonder the American public’s trust in government is at an all-time low.” 

EPA filed suit to obtain ethics documents concerning Ms. Klein’s disclosures as well as recusals and possible waivers from Department ethics officials regarding particular matters that present potential conflicts. The organization is being forced to go to court to obtain the information after Interior placed unusual barriers on a Freedom of Information Act request from EPA. 

Before joining the Department, Ms. Klein helped run a Bloomberg-funded operation that was involved with litigation efforts of more than one-third of state Attorneys General offices, touching on virtually every major issue facing the Department of the Interior. Originally tapped to become Interior’s Deputy Secretary, her intended nomination was withdrawn when it became clear she would not earn Senate confirmation.

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BACKGROUND INFORMATION

If provided by the Department of the Interior, the records requested will likely assist the public in learning the answers to the following five questions:  

  1. Did Klein inform the Department of the Interior’s Ethics office of the reality that she and her former employer served as attorneys for a multitude of states?
  2. Did Ethics officials provide written recusal guidance to Klein?
  3. If so, has Klein distributed her written recusal guidance to various offices that deal with the Counselor to the Secretary to ensure proper screening?
  4. Has Klein participated in any deliberation, decision, or action related to any of the approximately 17 states who were her former employer’s client?
  5. Has Elizabeth Klein complied with her ethics obligations? To comply with the Biden Ethics Pledge, and specifically his Revolving Door policy, Elizabeth Klein may not participate in any matter involving specific parties that is directly and substantially related to her former employer or her former clients for a period of two years.