House Republicans are digging deeper into Interior Secretary Deb Haaland’s relationship with the Pueblo Action Alliance, a radical climate group based in New Mexico.
On Monday, Rep. Bruce Westerman, R-Ark., who chairs the House Committee on Natural Resources, and Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., who chairs the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, sent a letter to Haaland and the agency’s ethics director demanding documents related to the secretary’s involvement with the Pueblo Action Alliance (PAA).
“Alarmingly, there is evidence that Secretary Haaland misused her position for the potential benefit of a nonprofit, the Pueblo Action Alliance (PAA), 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,” the chairmen wrote.
The letter is a follow-up to lawmakers’ initial inquiry in June. A group of House Republicans probed the secretary’s potential conflicts of interest after her spring decision to choke off oil and gas development around New Mexico’s Chaco Cultural National Historical Park. The 20-year moratorium implemented by Secretary Haaland achieves a primary goal of the PAA, which happens to employ Haaland’s daughter, Somah.
“Secretary Haaland has purportedly met with PAA leaders during her time as Secretary of the Interior to discuss PAA’s opposition to oil and gas production on federal lands,” 11 House Republicans wrote in June. Lawmakers were “concerned with Secretary Haaland’s compliance with ethical obligations and potential conflicts of interest given PAA’s opposition to oil and gas production on federal lands, Secretary Haaland’s involvement with PAA, Somah’s work with PAA to limit domestic energy production, and the work of Secretary Haaland’s husband.”
Haaland’s husband, Skip Sayre, is the chief of sales and marketing for the Laguna Development Corporation, the “business arm” of the Laguna Pueblo, a tribe to which Haaland belongs.
In June, House Republicans asked the secretary’s office to turn over records involving any government work with Sayre and Somah Haaland. Westerman and Gosar’s letter on Monday targets the secretary’s records related to the PAA.
“While a close relationship between Biden cabinet officials and nonprofits is not unique, Secretary Haaland’s longstanding relationship and ongoing intimacy with PAA is,” they wrote. “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.”
Secretary Haaland participated in a film opposing oil and gas development in the Chaco area that was released in January last year. The documentary, which was narrated by Somah, was at the center of an ethics complaint filed by the nonprofit watchdog Protect the Public’s Trust in August.
“Given her past statements, participation in this film, and her child’s active role in lobbying against oil and gas development in the region, reasonable observers could question Secretary Haaland’s impartiality in the matter,” the group wrote in a letter to the inspector general for the Interior Department.
House Republicans also raised concerns about the PAA’s affiliation with the Venceremos Brigade (VB), a communist Cuban solidarity group. In September, the bilingual Hispanic website ADN America reported the PAA “openly associates with the Venceremos Brigade (VB), a U.S.-based organization that facilitates trips for young Americans to visit Cuba, where they are reportedly greeted and groomed by Cuban intelligence agents.”
Somah Haaland began working with the Pueblo Action Alliance (PAA) in 2020, a New Mexico indigenous rights group that openly associates with the VB, and whose executive director, Julia Bernal, traveled with the group to Cuba the year before where it was hosted by the Institute of Friendship Along with the Peoples (ICAP), a regime sponsored organization led by one of Cuba’s most notorious spy, Fernando González Llort — and a former member of the Wasp Network who was sentenced to prison in the U.S. for espionage.