The Department of the Interior (DOI) under President Biden has reversed a Trump-era “accountability and transparency” order, making it possible for individuals to monitor info about litigation filed by outside interest groups that GOP members claim cost taxpayers too much money.
Interior Sec. Deb Haaland reversed the order, which was approved in Sept. 2018, on Friday. The order made settlement and consent decree information, as well as the amount of money paid to attorneys for private organizations, available online.
Following the Biden removal order, the website was scrubbed to “allay any concerns” that it might not have a voice in “policymaking.” It also posted a “searchable list” of final decrees and settlements, and the Office of the Solicitor, which “governs dept. actions,” according to Trump’s executive order.
The order revoking the measure was allegedly based on concerns that it “duplicates or goes beyond authorities granted to other government agencies under OFAC regulations as well as burdensome and duplicative reporting requirements,” according to the executive order. “Transparency and accountability are important principles for the Department,” it added.
President Trump’s DOI order was intended to limit “sue and settle” legal cases, in which a group goes to court against a federal department it knows will agree on a certain issue, with the department then agreeing to resolve the problem through other means and enacting policy that would not pass any other way. This method has previously been criticized by Republicans.
“The American people have a right to know what sorts of agreements are being done and how much money is being spent on their behalf,” William Perry Pendley, the former head of the Bureau of Land Management from 2019 to 2021, reported. “There are staff members from environmental organizations that now work in the Biden White House, and we must have transparency into possible “deals” taking place behind closed doors,” said Pendley.
“You have an ethical issue with officials in power now doing deals with their former coworkers and not informing anybody about it,” said Pendley. “There’s money going to organizations that are turning around and using their funds to pay for litigation in order to sue their former colleagues whom are now in office.”