Congressional Probe Of Enviro Groups Urged Over Lobbying Of Interior Department Agency
For Immediate Release: Sept. 24, 2008
Contact: Greg Schnacke, 866-416-0869
Washington, D.C. -- Potential illegal coordination between U.S. Interior Department officials and several national environmental groups, currently being investigated by the Interior Inspector General, should also be investigated by Congressional oversight committees, according to Americans for American Energy.
Americans for American Energy Wednesday asked U.S. Rep. Nick Rahall (D-WV), Chair of the House Resource Committee, and U.S. Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), Chair of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, to convene oversight hearings on the matter.
News of the IG investigation was unveiled late last week by U.S. Rep. Rob Bishop (R-UT), ranking Member on the U.S. House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Parks and Public Lands, who said that he was informed of the investigation involving the Wilderness Society, National Wildlife Federation and possible improper contacts with the National Landscape Conservation System (NLCS) on September 18.
Bishop indicated in a statement that e-mails and other documents collected b the Inspector General’s office of the U.S. Interior Department show extensive coordination between environmental lobbyists and NLCS top officials.
These activities appear to include coordination of lobbying, agency requests for budget language from environmental lobbyists, setting up NLCS events, review of official memorandums, and other potentially illegal exchanges, Bishop said.
The Interior IG is also collecting and reviewing travel documents as part of the investigation, the Congressman added.
“The Inspector General needs to quickly determine how far this goes, but the Congressional oversight process must be brought into play as well,” said Greg Schnacke, President and CEO of Americans for American Energy, a non-profit grassroots energy education organization based in Denver, Colorado. “The Wilderness Society and the National Wildlife Federation spend millions of dollars pursuing an anti-American energy political agenda. The question we have is how far does this extend and does is it more extensive than simply the NLCS?”
AAE also called on Congress to shelve action on Omnibus Public Land Management Act (S. 3213), and in particular the portion of the bill directly affecting the NLCS, the “National Landscape Conservation System Act” (S. 1139).
"This investigation calls into question any action that might be taken this year on S. 3213, particularly the inclusion of the National Landscape Conservation System Act (S. 1139), until this situation is concluded. The cloud hanging over the NCLS alone should disqualify any consideration of this legislation this year. The allegations of collusion between the national environmental groups lobbying hard for this bill and the staff of the Interior agency that would be the subject of the this legislation are enough under any reasonable assessment to shelve this legislation immediately until justice takes its course,” Schnacke stated in his letter to Rahall and Bingaman.
Published reports indicate that NLCS officials met regularly with environmental groups, often at the Wilderness Society’s Washington, D.C. offices to coordinate federal lobbying strategy and messaging. Federal law generally prohibits federal employees from using appropriated funds or their official positions to lobby Congress.
"It is the job of the Congress to provide oversight and investigate whenever there are such allegations of misconduct and misuse of taxpayer dollars," Schnacke said. "If the committees refuse to conduct such oversight, it will be sending a message to the American people that it intends to turn a blind eye to such activities."
“You can’t tell me this is an isolated incident,” added Schnacke. “The political agenda of the NWF and the Wilderness Society is too broad and touches more in the Interior Department than just the NLCS. I am sure the leadership at Interior will also be very interested whether other employees in other agencies may be a little too cozy with the Wilderness Society and the National Wildlife Federation.”
“AAE encourages the IG to get to the bottom of this immediately, and the U.S. House and Senate to investigate this as well. These investigations should begin prior to this election, given that some of these individuals may be planning to get jobs and important policy positions in the new Administration,” said Schnacke.