Top Democrats Seek Ethics Investigation Into EPA Chief Over Meetings With Former Lobbying Clients
(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – Rep. Beyer (D-VA) led a group of House Democrats today asking the Acting Director of the Office of Government Ethics (OGE) for a review of recent meetings between Acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler and his former lobbying clients. The inquiry followed reporting by E&E that Wheeler met with at least three clients of Wheeler’s former lobbying firm this summer, which may have violated his Trump Administration ethics pledge.
The Representatives wrote:
“Acting Administrator Wheeler served as a registered lobbyist for Faegre Baker Daniels until May 31, 2016, according to disclosure filings. His political appointment to the position of Deputy Administrator of the EPA began on April 20, 2017, and therefore Wheeler should have recused himself from all matters involving his former clients until at least April 20, 2019.
His pledge notwithstanding, Wheeler reportedly met with former clients repeatedly while serving as Deputy Administrator. His public calendar shows meetings with his former client, “Darling Ingredients,” on June 26, 2018, the South Coast Air Quality Management District on June 22, 2018, and Archer Daniels Midland Co. (listed on his calendar as “ADM) on May 24, 2018. All of these companies have business interests which would be significantly affected by pending EPA regulations, and all paid Wheeler and his former lobbying firm Faegre Baker Daniels thousands of dollars for lobbying work.
Andrew Wheeler is the Acting Administrator of the EPA because of the departure of Administrator Scott Pruitt, which occurred under a cloud of ethical controversy and scandal that tarnished the reputation of the Agency. That context, Wheeler’s past work as a coal lobbyist, and the many conflicts of interest which that work naturally presents to his leadership of the EPA demand that his meetings and communications be carefully scrutinized so that he is held to the highest ethical standard.
For these reasons, we ask that that the Office of Government Ethics investigate the matter of Acting EPA Administrator Wheeler’s involvement with past lobbying clients to determine whether his previous meetings may have violated his ethics pledge. We also ask that you clarify which clients, and which regulatory matters affecting them, merit future recusals by the Acting Administrator in order to comply with both the spirit and the letter of ethics rules.”
The Representatives also noted a filing with the Senate by Faegre Baker Daniels which says that Andrew Wheeler lobbied on behalf of its client Darling International Inc, one of the companies with whom he later met, during the period ending in May of 2016, which is within the window of his ethics pledge. The filing reports $40,000 paid by Darling to Faegre for lobbying by Wheeler and others in 2016.
The letter was signed by Reps. Beyer, Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL), Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), and Jamie Raskin (D-MD). A signed copy is available here.