Today, Western Values Project released seven new profiles of political appointees joining the Department of the Interior on their Department of Influence website, documenting the revolving door between special interests and Trump’s political appointees at the department.
“With each new political appointee, Trump and Bernhardt’s Interior keeps getting worse and worse,” said Chris Saeger, Executive Director of Western Values Project. “The Interior Department is tasked with protecting our public lands and outdoor heritage. But so far, we’ve seen lobbyists, special interests, and their allies added to Interior’s payroll. The numbers speak for themselves: 25 ex-lobbyists dominate Interior under former mega-lobbyist Bernhardt. The Senate must act to hold Trump and Bernhardt accountable in their reckless attempts to undermine protections for our public lands and wildlife.”
Western Values Project launched its Department of Influence website in 2017, and since then, it has been a tool to expose the special interest prowess within the Department of the Interior.
With these additions, Bernhardt’s political appointees and nominees at Interior now include 25 who were either lobbyists or worked for lobbying firms, 17 former Trump campaign staffers, 32 who have worked for extractive industries, and only 5 appointees who have worked in conservation or outdoor recreation.
Two of the newest political appointees are Kiel Weaver and Cole Rojewski, both have connections to a powerful California irrigation district, Westlands Water District, a former client of Secretary Bernhardt’s.
Weaver, joining Interior’s Water and Science department, has a long history of working for anti-public lands politicians like Congressman Paul Ryan and Congressman Rob Bishop. According to internal Westlands documents, Weaver also dinned with a Westlands Water District official and then-Deputy Secretary Bernhardt. The Westlands Water District is a former lobbying client of Bernhardt’s and is part of a multi-faceted investigation to determine whether he violated ethics rules after taking actions benefiting former clients.
Rojewski, appointed Director of the Office of Congressional Liaison, is a long-time Republican operative who worked for Congressman David Valadao. During Rojewski’s tenure with Valadao, the congressman represented the district in California where the Westlands Water District sought to reroute the desert water supply.
The seven new Department of Influence profiles on the website include:
Kiel Weaver – Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary, Water & Science – Weaver was a lobbyist and Vice President of Morgan Meguire, LLC, from 1999-2003, where he lobbied for Shell Oil and numerous other energy companies.
Cole Rojewski – Director, Office of Congressional Liaison – Before working for Rep. Valadao, Rokjewski worked as the Republican National Committee (RNC) Victory Field Director for the Republican Party, and as a field operative for Devin Nunes. Rojewski started his career as a Government Affairs fellow for the agrochemical company Syngenta.
Edward Sequoyah Simermeyer – Chair, National Indian Gaming Commission – From 2014 to 2015, Simermeyer served as counsel to U.S. Senator John Barrasso of Wyoming on the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs. He was appointed to be an associate commissioner on the National Indian Gaming Commission on November 2, 2015.
Jason Hill – Deputy Solicitor, Energy & Mineral Resources – Hill was a trial attorney in the Natural Resources Section, Environment & Natural Resources Division of the Department of Justice (DOJ) for 10 years, from 2008 to 2018.
Melissa Beaumont – Advisor, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service – She previously worked as a Professional Staff Member on the Committee’s Interior Subcommittee for Rep. Cynthia Lummis from October 2015 through January 2017.
Reid Dagul – Acting Director, Congressional & Legislative Affairs for Indian Affairs – Dagul worked as a Defense Research Assistant for American Defense International from January 2016 to March 2017.
Taylor Playforth – Advisor, Office of Congressional and Legislative Affairs – According to press release from the Trump presidential campaign, Playforth was “a Raleigh based Republican activist who previously worked with the RNC on voter registration efforts, organized volunteers across the state and lead Republican leadership courses with a focus on galvanizing grassroots support for the North Carolina Republican Party. He has also worked as the Regional Field Director for RNC Deployment.”