In light of the Biden Administration’s decision to backtrack on its previously announced intent to nominate Elizabeth Klein to the position of Deputy Secretary of the Interior, and concerns EPA has raised here, here, and here about Ms. Klein’s former work as an attorney representing states including on “particular matters” against the Department, the public deserves now more than ever to learn the truth about what efforts Ms. Klein took to ensure that her current work for the government is not tainted by her previous work for those who sued the Department she currently works for.
Unfortunately, under questioning from Rep. Boebert (here, beginning at 1:04:00) at the House Subcommittee on Water’s May 24 hearing, Ms. Klein was vague about her former work and about what efforts, if any efforts at all, she had taken to ensure she is following all applicable ethics rules and laws in her current role. Ms. Klein did promise to release her ethics and recusal letter(s), which DoI has to date refused to provide to EPA, and others, resolving the question of what Ms. Klein disclosed about her apparent and myriad conflicts, and when she disclosed it.
EPA believes, at a minimum, that Ms. Klein ought to answer the following questions:
Question: It appears no one at the Center created by billionaire climate activist Michael Bloomberg to plant activist attorneys in state AG offices — including Ms. Klein, as the Bloomberg Center’s deputy director and now Senior Counselor to the Secretary of the Department — bothered checking into the ethics of an arrangement by which attorneys general took on privately funded staff to weaponize law enforcement for purposes supported by wealthy donors. Is that the case, or is there any evidence that serious ethical inquiries were made contrary to the evidence that they were eschewed?
Question: Did Ms. Klein or the Bloomberg Center ever report on the activities of privately funded Special Assistant Attorneys General or “SAAGs” in law enforcement roles to Bloomberg Philanthropies? It appears they did. How about to anyone at Bloomberg, L.P. What input did Bloomberg have on their work, which Ms. Klein has acknowledged, and other records strongly suggest, was not free from Center influence. Did the SAAGs use back channels to communicate with Ms. Klein/the Center?
What public relations, or “communications” services did the SEEIC team provide to cooperating attorneys general? Did SEEIC engage any PR firm to assist the Center?
Question: What policy topics did the SEEIC team help AGs communicate on, by providing full-time comms staff dedicated to promoting these “Aspiring Governors”? And was the focus in aiding in messaging for media, the public and lobbying other elected officials?
Question: What was discussed during the coordinating calls we know the Bloomberg Center co-ran, according to public-record emails? And in addition to the Impact Center, were other beneficiaries of Bloomberg Philanthropies grants on these calls, such as the Sierra Club? Were there funders to the Impact Center not previously disclosed who were involved on these calls?
Did Ms. Klein report back to Dan Firger, or to Bloomberg, either Philanthropies or LP, on these calls, ever?
Did the Center report back to Dan Firger, or to Bloomberg, either Philanthropies or LP, on these calls, ever?
Question: What, in your opinion, could Michigan AG “Special Assistant Attorney General” (apparently not a Bloomberg SAAG) Skip Pruss have meant by saying, in relating his conversation with at least your then-boss, now White House advisor for climate David Hayes, and possibly you, that the Impact Center was a “clearinghouse for all AG actions” because it appears that from his briefing that the mission of your group was much broader than helping AGs in litigation?
Question: Were discussions during the biweekly Multistate Coordination calls SAAGs conducted with you and David Hayes protected by attorney-client privilege? And if you aren’t the attorney for these parties how exactly does that legal privilege extend to you?
Question: Have you followed the exemplary standard set by David Bernhardt and committed to recusing yourself from business involving any of state AG offices connected to the Impact Center or their clients? If not, why not? And have you committed to recusing yourself from any involvement on the policies you helped coordinate with them, including Clean Energy, Climate Change Litigation, migratory bird, Endangered Species, NEPA, and Offshore Drilling – issues we know from open records documents you were involved in?
Question: Now that the roles are reversed, if you’re unwilling to follow the standard set by David Bernhardt and recuse yourself from involvement on issues advocated by the Impact Center, the AG offices and their clients you served, or even Bloomberg Philanthropies, why shouldn’t members of this committee and the public share the concerns of the Center for American Progress in 2017 that the Deputy at Interior will engineer quick reversals of policies on behalf of clients?
Question: Is it true that the State Energy & Environment Impact Center also promoted other Michael Bloomberg priorities, like gun control? These emails suggest it did. Doesn’t this suggest it was more a partisan organization, or an organization dedicated to advancing its donor’s agenda?