FIRST ON FOX: Republican leaders on the House Natural Resources Committee are accelerating an ongoing investigation into Interior Secretary Deb Haaland over her ties to left-wing environmental activist group Pueblo Action Alliance (PAA).
According to a letter to Haaland and top Interior Department (DOI) ethics official Heather Gottry — sent Monday and led by Natural Resources Committee Chairman Bruce Westerman, R-Ark. — Haaland has exhibited a potential “lack of impartiality and misuse of her position” for the benefit of PAA and multiple family members. Haaland’s daughter has worked at PAA while her husband has engaged in consulting work related to DOI actions.
“The Committee believes there is evidence that Secretary Haaland may have not acted impartially and did not avoid the appearance of a loss of impartiality in the performance of her duties,” the GOP letter states. “More alarmingly, there is evidence that Secretary Haaland misused her position for the potential benefit of a nonprofit, the Pueblo Action Alliance, and used her position — or at the very least permitted the use of her position, title, and authority — to endorse PAA and PAA’s work.”
“Prior to joining the Biden administration as Secretary of the Interior, Secretary Haaland was evidently involved with the beginnings, and potential origin, of PAA,” it continues. “Additionally, there is evidence that, since becoming Secretary of the Interior, Secretary Haaland has maintained her close relationship with PAA.”
In June, Westerman announced he would open the investigation into Haaland and her ties to PAA and other interests that may conflict with her official duties. The probe came shortly after she finalized a ban on fossil fuel leasing within 10 miles of the Chaco Culture National Historical Park in New Mexico, a move opposed by local Native Americans and residents, but supported by other tribes and eco groups.
The New Mexico-based PAA previously advocated against new leasing near Chaco Canyon. Haaland’s daughter Somah, in her role as a media organizer for PAA, even lobbied on behalf of the group and against Chaco Canyon leasing during a trip late last year to Washington, D.C.
The letter additionally pointed to Haaland’s meetings with PAA Executive Director Julia Bernal during her tenure as interior secretary. Bernal boasted during an interview in 2021 that she met personally with Haaland, whom she referenced as “Auntie Deb,” about the group’s broad opposition to oil and gas leasing.
And Natural Resources Republicans have also cited Haaland’s federal ethics disclosures, which show her husband Skip Sayre engages in consulting work for the Laguna Development Corp., a firm that is affiliated with the Laguna Pueblo, an Indigenous tribe. Like the PAA, the tribe has advocated in favor of a buffer zone around Chaco Canyon where new leasing would be banned.
“While a close relationship between Biden cabinet officials and nonprofits is not unique, Secretary Haaland’s longstanding and ongoing intimacy with PAA is,” Westerman’s letter Monday continued. “Thus, the Committee is concerned with Secretary Haaland’s lack of impartiality with matters concerning PAA, as well as the potential for the Secretary to misuse her position for the benefit of PAA.”
“The Committee is also concerned that Secretary Haaland may have conveyed nonpublic information to PAA, whether intentionally or not, given the unrivaled access PAA officials and staff have to Secretary Haaland,” it added.
The letter further noted PAA has engaged in collaborations with the All-African People’s Revolutionary Party, a group fighting for the “unification of Africa under an All-African Socialist Government,” and the Venceremos Brigade, a group established with the assistance of the Cuban government’s intelligence agency and that advocates for policies in “solidarity with the Cuban Revolution.”
“Since the July 2019 trip to Cuba, the All-African People’s Revolutionary Party, the Venceremos Brigade, and PAA have continued to work together on shared projects and goals, including the creation of a New Mexico-based chapter of the Venceremos Brigade,” the Republicans wrote.
The Republicans asked for a series of communications and documentation related to the investigation. They also asked again for documents requested in June that DOI has yet to provide.
Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., the chairman of the Natural Resources Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, co-signed the letter Monday with Westerman.
The DOI and PAA didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.