Today, Western Values Project released the profiles of 17 political appointees on their Department of Influence website, which was launched in 2017 to document the revolving door between industry and political appointees at the Interior Department under Secretary Ryan Zinke. The newly added appointees have criticized landmark conservation laws like the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), have worked for organizations funded by the Koch brothers, have seemingly zero qualifications on public lands issues but worked for the Trump campaign, and have expressed racist views on social media.
Zinke’s political appointees and nominees at Interior now include: 17 former lobbyists, 18 Trump campaign workers, 42 political appointees who have worked for extractive industries, and only a paltry seven political appointees who have worked in conservation.
“Zinke has been stacking the deck with industry and special interest cronies since day one,” said Western Values Project Executive Director Chris Saeger. “Hiring lobbyists and political extremists to manage our nation’s natural resources hurts public lands, wildlife and the American taxpayer. Zinke and his team have done plenty of damage rolling back public land protections, giving special interest handouts and limiting public participation for their former employers, all at the expense of communities across the West.”
Some of the new additions to the Department of Influence website include:
- Faith Vander Voort, Secretary Zinke’s Deputy Press Secretary, who once argued Muslims can’t be President in a now deleted blog post;
- James Voyles, currently Senior Counsel in the office of the Secretary of the Interior, who worked at astroturf group Consumer Energy Alliance;
- Rob Gordon, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy, Management and Budget in the Department of the Interior, is a vocal opponent of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and has even spoken out against the widely popular and bipartisan Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). Gordon previously worked at the Heritage Foundation and Competitive Enterprise Institute, both of which receive funding from the oil-billionaire Koch brothers;
- Brandon Middleton, Deputy Solicitor for Water Resources at Interior, worked for the Koch-backed Pacific Legal Foundation where he sued the Fish and Wildlife Service multiple times. Middleton thinks the Endangered Species Act is a triumph of environmental extremism over human progress.
- Matthew Dermody, currently a Special Assistant in the Office of the Deputy Secretary, previously worked as a policy analyst at Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, the same lobbying firm from which Deputy Secretary David Bernhardt hails;
- Chris Stolte, a White House Fellow placed at Interior, used to work at Shell and is now on a subcommittee of the Royalty Policy Committee which advises Secretary Zinke on oil and gas drilling;
- Alex Sterhan, a Special Assistant in the Bureau of Reclamation, was a former staffer of Secretary Zinke’s when he was a Congressman, and holds no relevant experience to qualify him on public lands issues;
- Evan Wilson, now a Field Coordinator at the Department of the Interior, is a longtime Montana Republican staffer who worked on Zinke’s 2016 congressional campaign and in Zinke’s congressional office and also holds no known public lands qualifications.
The other new political appointees who were added to the Department of Influence include: Holly Lane, Jean Hovland, Ryan Hambleton, Samantha Hebert, Nick Davis, Jonodev Chaudhuri, John Bockmier, Kyle Scherer, and Katie Mills.