Government Watchdog Calls for Investigation of Acting EPA Chief Andrew Wheeler for Multiple Lobbying Disclosure Violations
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: August 10, 2018
Contact: Daniel Stevens, firstname.lastname@example.org, 202.780.5750
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Campaign for Accountability (“CfA”), a nonprofit, nonpartisan watchdog group focused on public accountability, called on House and Senate officials to investigate whether Andrew Wheeler, the Acting Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”), and his former lobbying firm, Faegre Baker Daniels Consulting (“Faegre Baker”), committed multiple violations of the Lobbying Disclosure Act (“LDA”) in connection with their successful effort to change the boundaries of the Bears Ears National Monument for the commercial benefit of their client, Energy Fuels Resources, Inc. (“Energy Fuels”).
CfA Executive Director Daniel E. Stevens said, “Wheeler pledged to clean up EPA after the ethics disaster Scott Pruitt, yet it seems Wheeler and his former lobbying firm violated multiple, basic provisions of our nation’s lobbying laws. It doesn’t instill confidence, and Congress should investigate.”
On February 1, 2017, Energy Fuels hired Faegre Baker employee Andrew Wheeler to lobby for favorable changes to the boundaries of the Bears Ears National Monument in Utah, just four days after President Trump indicated his interest in changing the national monument’s boundaries. Energy Fuels owns a now-dormant uranium mine located within the original boundaries of the national monument, yet the company could not operate the mine while it remained within the boundaries of the monument.
Although the lobbying representation began on February 1, 2017, Faegre Baker did not file its Lobbying Registration with the Senate and House of Representatives until April 12, 2017, nearly a month after the LDA’s established statutory deadline. Accordingly, Faegre Baker and Andrew Wheeler began their lobbying representation in violation of the law.
Unfortunately, this was only the first of many violations of the LDA. In fact, it appears that Faegre Baker and Andrew Wheeler violated all three of the LDA’s requirements for quarterly lobbying disclosure reports.
First, on its Lobbying Registration form for Energy Fuels, Faegre Baker only described the purpose of its representation as lobbying on “[g]eneral energy issues related to uranium mining and milling.” By describing their work in these vague, generic terms, Faegre Baker and Andrew Wheeler provided absolutely no notice to the public – as required by law and clarified by House and Senate guidelines – that they were attempting to influence the Interior Department’s review of the Bears Ears National Monument boundaries.
Second, while Faegre Baker and Andrew Wheeler disclosed that they made lobbying contacts with the Senate and the House of Representatives, they did not disclose meeting with senior Interior Department officials to discuss the boundary changes, despite a report by The Washington Post confirming otherwise. The LDA requires lobbying firms to disclose the “Houses of Congress and the Federal agencies contacted” on behalf of their clients.
Finally, Faegre Baker did not disclose any lobbying contacts by Andrew Wheeler with any legislative or executive branch official in the third quarter of 2017, despite the fact that Mr. Wheeler remained a lobbyist for Energy Fuels until August 11, 2017 and attended a July 17, 2017 meeting with Interior Department officials to discuss changes to Bears Ears National Monument.
Stevens continued, “These repeated inaccuracies beg the question of whether Faegre Baker was extremely careless with its recordkeeping, or it whether it was deliberately trying to obscure Wheeler’s lobbying activity. If Andrew Wheeler and Faegre Baker failed to tell the truth about their work, they need to be held accountable.”
Campaign for Accountability is a nonpartisan, nonprofit watchdog organization that uses research, litigation, and aggressive communications to expose misconduct and malfeasance in public life and hold those who act at the expense of the public good accountable for their actions.