On Monday, the watchdog group Protect the Public’s Trust filed two federal lawsuits against the Biden administration alleging it violated federal law by refusing to turn over communications involving Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland’s daughter, Fox News reported.
In the two lawsuits, filed against the Department of the Interior and the Bureau of Land Management respectively, the group is asking the court to compel both agencies to comply with its Freedom of Information Act requests submitted at the beginning of the year.
In early January, Protect the Public’s Trust filed FOIA requests with the two agencies asking for communications with Somah Haaland and top officials in the agencies after Fox News reported that Somah was lobbying federal lawmakers on matters related to oil and gas leasing. which her mother oversees.
In a statement to Fox News, Michael Chamberlain, the director of Protect the Public’s Trust, said Somah Haaland’s “activism and lobbying efforts” potentially create the public perception of a conflict of interest for Secretary Haaland. He said the matter is complicated further by Somah Haaland’s leadership role in an organization that caused a riot at the Interior Department headquarters.
Chamberlain explained that either of these issues shows the need for more transparency from the Interior Department into the interactions and relationships between senior officials and Somah Haaland. “Taken together,” he added, “this need is magnified.”
Somah Haaland is the media organizer for the New Mexico-based environmental group Pueblo Action Alliance. In December, the group went to Washington with other climate activists to demand that lawmakers and federal officials block drilling near a national park in northwestern New Mexico. The activists also hosted a screening of a film showcasing the “threats” posed by oil and gas leasing for lawmakers and Interior officials. The film was narrated by Somah Haaland.
In its January FOIA request, Protect the Public Trust asked for all communications between Haaland and seven Interior officials, including her mother and Bureau of Land Management director Tracy Stone-Manning.
In its lawsuits, Protect the Public Trust told the court that neither agency has produced the information requested nor are they likely to abide by statutory FOIA obligations.