This press release was originally posted through Western Values Project. Western Values Project is now Accountable.US.

Interior Secretary Bernhardt and Assistant Secretary Sweeney Use Loophole To Divert Funds To For-Profit Oil Corporations, Including Sweeney’s Former Employer

In a backhanded move, Politico is reporting that President Trump’s Interior Department is using a loophole in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act to give corporations access to billions of dollars in emergency COVID-19 relief funds earmarked for Native American tribes. Trump’s Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs, Tara Sweeney, represented and lobbied for one of the oil and gas corporations now deemed eligible for the bailout.

“It’s one despicable act after another by this corrupt cast of characters. We know the Trump administration is trying to desperately bail out their billionaire big oil pals but to rob needed coronavirus funds from Native American communities by taking advantage of a loophole that directly contradicts congressional intent is beyond reproach,” said Jayson O’Neill, Director of Western Values Project. “This is what we get after Trump filled his swamp with former big oil lobbyists.”

Both Interior Secretary David Bernhardt and Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs Tara Sweeney are former lobbyists for big oil. 

Sweeney began her career working at “the Washington, D.C., law firm of Van Ness Feldman,” where she “lobbied Congress to open the Arctic refuge to oil exploration.” Following that, she returned to Alaska, where she has led the charge to open ANWR as a lobbyist for the Arctic Slope Regional Corporation (ASRC), an Alaskan oil and coal organization.

ASRC has already leased millions of acres of land to Anadarko, Chevron Texaco, and BP for oil drilling, including all of their lands within ANWR, and is currently looking for a coal development company “to explore and develop its coal deposits located on its lands in the western Arctic.” Sweeney has worked at ARSC for nearly 20 years, and most recently, worked as executive vice president of external affairs.

Western Values Project has documented Tara Sweeney’s deep ties to big oil corporations and her former employer on its Department of Influence website. Learn more about the Trump administration’s desperate attempts to bail out big oil at

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