Interior Official Violated Federal Ethics Laws

Gina-Marie Cheeseman

If it sounds familiar, it's because it is. Another high official in the Department of Interior is investigated for federal ethics violations. Drain the swamp indeed.

Donald Trump campaigned on a promise to drain the swamp in Washington, D.C. What he did once in office is to create a foul swamp of ethical violations.

President Trump’s Interior Department is plagued by ethical violations. Trump’s first Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke resigned in 2018 amid investigations into his conduct while in office. Current Interior Secretary David Bernhardt has faced investigations into his ethical violations.

Assistant Secretary, Insular and International Affairs Doug Domenech violated federal ethics laws, an Associated Press investigation found. The Interior Department’s Inspector General investigated Domenech and discovered that he contacted a senior EPA official in 2017 by email and in person, advocating for his son-in-law who wanted a job in the agency. The Inspector General investigation is the second one conducted on Domenech that found he committed ethical violations. The first investigation found that he met two times with his former employer in 2017, a conservative policy group based in Texas, to talk about legal disputes between the Interior and the group.

“This isn’t the first time Domenech ran afoul of federal laws that public officials are required to adhere to yet here we are again,” said Western Values Project Director Jayson O’Neill. 

A Western Values Project conducted an investigation into allegations that Domenech advocated for his son-in-law’s employment at the EPA. Allegedly, he used his title and email account when he contacted an EPA senior official regarding his son-in-law’s application to work at the EPA. What the investigation found is evidence that Domenech communicated with the EPA senior official using his Interior email account, which is an ethical violation. The investigation also found that Domenech provided another family member’s business name and website to the EPA senior official in an email sent from his Interior email account.

A month after Domenech began his job as Secretary of Insular Affairs, he bought over $15,000 of stock in Compass Minerals, which does business with the Interior, according to Western Values Project. The company produces salt, potash, and fertilizers. In addition to contracts with the Interior, the company won contracts with the Defense, Transportation and Veterans Affairs as far back as 2011. The Interior paid the company $15,000.

Who is Doug Domenech?

Doug Domenech
Doug Domenech

Domenech’s role at the Interior means he carries out the administrative responsibilities of the Interior Secretary in coordinating federal policy for the territories of American Samoa, Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. He also administers and oversees federal assistance to the Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, and the Republic of Palau under the Compacts of Free Association. In other words, he has much responsibility at an important federal agency.

Who is this man with so much responsibility in the Interior Department? He is someone who has worked for both the federal government and as a lobbyist. In 2001, he joined the Interior and ended up in a high level position. He began lobbying for oil and energy companies after leaving the Interior. He became Virginia’s Secretary of Natural Resources in 2010 where he supported drilling off of Virginia’s coastline. He worked again as a lobbyist and was the director of an initiative to lobby for the “forgotten moral case for fossil fuels. The Texas Public Policy Foundation, a conservative think tank, founded the initiative and ExxonMobil, ConocoPhillips, Devon Energy, and Koch Industries funded it.

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