A high-ranking lawyer representing the powerful Independent Petroleum Association of America (IPAA) — a former client of Interior Secretary David Bernhardt — blasted President Trump’s administration and Interior political appointees as incompetent and inexperienced, implying that if Interior was full of more well-connected and competent former-industry allies, IPAA would reap greater rewards, recent reporting from the Washington Post and Politico revealed.
“President Trump’s administration and Secretary Bernhardt’s Interior are so incompetent that powerful oil and gas special interests are even calling their bluff. These candid comments reveal that even Secretary Bernhardt’s former special interest lobbying clients don’t think Trump’s team is qualified or competent enough to further damage our public lands,” said Jayson O’Neill, Deputy Director of Western Values Project.
Mark Baron, a long-time oil and gas industry lawyer, spoke at the IPAA meeting in July, addressing high-powered oil and gas industry players. In his speech, he highlighted Pres. Trump’s “drain the swamp” mantra, blaming it for what he sees as general incompetence within Interior. He said that because of Trump’s supposed loyalty test — that is, Pres. Trump only wanting to appoint officials to his cabinet that have supported him from the start of his campaign — Interior was suffering due to a lack of institutional knowledge.
“One is the Trump administration’s political decision to implement what, their so-called loyalty test. That if you weren’t loyal to the administration, from the beginning of the electoral cycle, that you weren’t going to get a job in the administration. And so you have, you know, the other side will criticize and say the swamp hasn’t been drained. But when it comes to sort of government, technocrats, the swamp has really been drained.”
Baron went on to call Sec. Bernhardt a “competent technocrat”, seeming to imply that if Interior was full of appointees of similar mind and qualifications of the former mega-lobbyist, IPAA would have all its checklist items met.
“Within the Trump administration, we’ve seen science disregarded, career public servants silenced, and the public continually ignored for policies that are eviscerating America’s public lands and outdoor heritage. It’s rich that this powerful oil and gas association, which has had its hand guiding Interior’s policy as Bernhardt’s former client, would throw Trump under the bus like this,” continued O’Neill.
Baron finished his criticism of Trump’s Interior appointees, calling them:
“…inexperienced government folks. And so they may want to implement policy, but at some point, you need some people who are familiar with Washington, who know how to draft a regulatory rule have experience doing it in at the big level. And this administration, I’m going to respectfully disagree with Wayne, two and a half years later, I don’t see the agencies getting better, I still don’t see that leadership or that competence, in the administration.”
Western Values Project and Politico previously documented Bernhardt’s former client IPAA’s influence at Interior: