Nominee to Head Fish and Wildlife Service Fails to Disclose Lobbying Ties

Aurelia Skipwith’s History with Special Interests Makes Her Too Conflicted to Lead US Fish and Wildlife Agency

WASHINGTON, DC – SEPTEMBER 11: Nominee to be Director for the Fish and Wildlife Service Aurelia Skipwith testifies during a Senate Environment and Public Works Committee confirmation hearing on September 11, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Zach Gibson/Getty Images)

Aurelia Skipwith, President Trump’s nominee to be Director of Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), failed to disclose lobbying ties between her former employer, Gage International LLC, and their work on behalf of the powerful Westlands Water District — a former client of Interior Secretary David Bernhardt, recent reporting from The Guardian reveals. 

“Aurelia Skipwith’s deep ties to the swamp and special interests were enough for former mega-lobbyist turned-Interior Secretary Bernhardt to consider her qualified to head up Fish and Wildlife Services, despite her strikingly scant resume,” said Jayson O’Neill, Deputy Director of Western Values Project. “Skipwith’s deep ties to a host of special interests make her another conflicted swamp-monster feeding into Trump’s culture of corruption.”

Aurelia Skipwith’s resume notes Gage Intl. as her former employer. Skipwith’s fiancée, Leo Giacometto, also worked for Gage Intl. While Skipwith is not required to disclose any information about Giacometto’s work because the couple is not yet married, her clear connections raise questions. 

A search of the Senate Lobbying Disclosure Act database revealed that Gage Intl. and Giacometto received over $200,000 dollars from Westlands to lobby on behalf of the irrigation district from 2005 until 2010. Bernhardt became a lobbyist for Westlands shortly after their contract with Gage Intl. expired. However, after Skipwith was asked by Ranking Member Senator Carper (D-DE) to disclose any potential conflicts of interest concerning her former clients — including Gage Intl. — Skipwith failed to disclose Gage Intl’s long lobbying history on behalf of the Westlands Water District.

“The failure to disclose her ties to Bernhardt’s former client whether required to or not, as well as her own potential conflicts of interest, raise serious questions about her ethical standing. Trump’s swamp doesn’t need any more special interest sellouts,” continued O’Neill. 

By leading USFWS, Skipwith would oversee the implementation of the controversial Endangered Species Act (ESA) biological assessment for the Central Valley Project that has come under recent scrutiny for political play, including suppressing expert advisement and ignoring science. The assessment would reroute billions of gallons of water into the Central Valley to benefit water users, including Westlands Water District — a huge win for the California water wars entity. 

Further Background: 

Sec. Bernhardt has long been a player in the California water wars. 

Previously, disgraced former-Secretary Ryan Zinke put then-Deputy Secretary Bernhardt in charge of overseeing the new Bureau of Reclamation project to explore “methods of moving more water south,” — which resulted in the controversial biological assessment

Bernhardt’s former lobbying client, Westlands Water District, welcomed the proposed project.

Bernhardt then became the subject of a multi-faceted ethics investigation just four days after his promotion to as Interior Secretary. The investigation includes Bernhardt’s efforts to alter said biological opinion to benefit his former client, the Westlands Water District.


Previously, questions concerning Skipwith’s ethics have been raised, specifically when Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) revealed that Skipwith’s only campaign donation in the last ten years was made to the Trump campaign, only days after she was officially nominated.  

Skipwith joined the Trump Administration with little to no relevant public lands experience and spent virtually her entire career at agribusiness conglomerate Monsanto. Her nomination has raised serious concerns among advocates and watchdog groups.

Join the effort to strengthen the American West.