Watchdog group files complaint against Interior Dept official for crossing ethics line on adverse ANWR policy


Protect the Public’s Trust, a government watchdog group, filed an ethics complaint against a Department of the Interior senior official, who the group accuses of improperly influencing policy on behalf of the National Wildlife Federation, her immediate past employer.

Protect the Public’s Trust sent a letter to the Department of Interior’s Inspector General alleging that Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Land and Minerals Management Laura Daniel-Davis heavily influences a course change in Interior policy, all to cooperate with herNational Wildlife Federation, which had sued the Interior Department over oil and gas leases in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

“Based upon documents PPT obtained from a whistleblower and Freedom of Information Act request, Ms. Daniel-Davis’ involvement in the issue may have crossed the line into personal and substantial involvement in a particular matter involving her former employer,” wrote Michael Chamberlain, the director of PPT. “Within six months at Interior, Ms. Daniel-Davis had exercised her official authority to achieve practically all of the legal remedies sought by her former employer in court.”

Nine leases issued under the Coastal Plains program were suspended through Daniel-Davis’ efforts.

“Even worse, the legal arguments she relied on to do so were strikingly similar to those developed for and included in her former employer’s legal filings,” Chamberlain wrote. “Subsequently, the parties to the litigation cited Ms. Daniel-Davis’ actions as one of the reasons to respectively support or take no position on the Department’s request for a stay in the lawsuit. Neither of these documents nor any others available to the public indicate Ms. Daniel-Davis received authorization to participate in this matter from a designated agency ethics official.”

Daniel-Davis has bounced back and forth between Democrat administrations and the National Wildlife Federation. She joined the Department of the Interior during the Obama Administration, as associate deputy secretary and chief of staff. When President Donald Trump was elected, she left and went to the wildlife group as vice president, and later chief of policy and advocacy for the organization. President Joe Biden selected her as principal deputy assistant secretary of the interior for land and minerals management, a role held during the Trump Administration by Alaskan Joe Balash.

She doesn’t need confirmation for the principal deputy assistant secretary position she holds, but she does require confirmation for the Assistant Secretary position, which she holds in an “acting” role.

Daniel-Davis has failed to be confirmed to her Assistant Secretary position by the Senate Natural Resources Committee, which has been paralyzed by a tie vote, with every Republican on the committee voting against her nomination. Even Sen. Lisa Murkowski voted against Daniels-Davis. Groups such as Earthjustice, Sierra Club, and National Wildlife Federation have not only supported her confirmation, but have lobbied heavily for it. With the committee deadlocked, the entire Senate must vote to spring it from the committee. That is unlikely to happen before the midterm elections.

Read the complaint: