Biden Interior Secretary Hit With Ethics Complaint By Watchdog

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Protect the Public’s Trust, a government oversight and accountability organization, filed an ethics complaint Thursday against Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland with the inspector general of the Department of the Interior (DOI).

The ethics complaint alleges that Haaland may not have been impartial when making decisions regarding oil and gas leasing around the Chaco Canyon, and it requested that the DOI’s inspector general initiate an investigation into any potential conflicts of interest. President Joe Biden signed a January 2021 executive order requiring every appointee of the executive branch to sign an ethics commitment, pledging to make decisions “on the merits and exclusively in the public interest, without regard to private gain or personal benefit.”

Haaland’s DOI closed off public lands within ten miles of the Chaco Canyon in New Mexico from any future fuel leasing activity in June for the next two decades, a move which the complaint says raises questions about her impartiality given that her daughter is a member of an activist group that pursued this exact policy outcome. Pueblo Action Alliance, the group to which Haaland’s daughter belongs, advocates for “indigenous solutions as means to dismantle and eradicate white supremacy, capitalism, imperialism, hetero-patriarchy and extractive colonialism” and seeks the “rematriation of everything stolen,” according to its website. (RELATED: Biden’s Interior Secretary Refers To The US Capital As ‘Ancestral Homelands’ Of Native American Tribes)

Ethics Complaint Regarding Secretary Haaland and Chaco Canyon by Nick Pope on Scribd

While some Native American groups, like the Laguna Pueblo, to which Haaland belongs, approved of her policy to withdraw the 351,000 acres from leasing activity, others, like the Navajo Nation, opposed it and sought compromise. Haaland opted not to compromise with the Navajo on the issue of a reduced buffer zone, instead forging ahead with the more restrictive option.

“Secretary Haaland has a conflict of interest as a member of the Laguna Pueblo that has been pushing for the very outcome on Chaco that she signed off on,” Kathleen Sgamma, president of the Western Energy Alliance, said in a statement shared with the Daily Caller News Foundation. “Plus, her own daughter has lobbied her agency and members of Congress for that same outcome,” Sgamma continued, adding that “as secretary of the interior, she has an obligation to balance the interests of all tribes, and not favor just one side.”

The complaint alleges further that Haaland inappropriately featured in a film about the Chaco Canyon and tribal opposition to fossil-fuel related activities in the area.

Thursday’s complaint is the second ethics-related complaint filed against a Biden administration official this week. Leaders of Protect the Public’s Trust and 13 other government transparency and accountability groups sent a letter to Biden on Tuesday requesting that he seek the immediate resignation of Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm, on the grounds that she has allegedly perpetrated a “litany of abuses of public trust” in her capacity as head of the Department of Energy.

An August poll from Gallup suggests that more than 50% of Americans have a negative perception of the ethics of the Biden administration. Former White House press secretary Jen Psaki explained in January 2021 that the Biden administration vowed to be the most “ethically vigorous administration in history,” according to The Independent.

The White House did not respond immediately to a request for comment.

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