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Senior Adviser to the Secretary of the Interior

Heather Swift serves as the senior adviser to the Secretary of the Interior. She was previously the press secretary for the Department of Interior.

Heather Swift has worked for public affairs and lobbying firms, for then Montana Congressman Ryan Zinke, and for many other Republicans running for federal office before her current position at Interior. Swift began her career at public affairs firm Mercury when it lobbied on behalf of NRG Energy and Peabody Energy (one of Zinke’s past campaign donors); she later worked at DCI Group when it lobbied on behalf of Exxon Mobil. Even though while she was at Mercury, Swift worked with an organization called No American Debt that “‘educate[d] the general public about the severity'” of America’s debt, since becoming Interior Press Secretary she has defended Secretary Zinke’s use of thousands of dollars of taxpayer money on chartered flights and private jets. She also defended Secretary Zinke’s controversial reassignment of top career officials within the Interior Department, a move that one of the reassigned officials said was retaliation for his speaking out about the effects of climate change. Swift also kept the Glacier National Park Superintendent and a United States Geological Survey climate change expert from meeting with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg when Zuckerberg visited Glacier National Park, even though Zuckerberg “specifically requested” to meet with the USGS climate change scientist. When she isn’t busy defending Secretary Zinke’s controversial actions, Swift hobnobs with the DC elite— she recently attended a party co-hosted by former Trump strategist and white nationalist Steve Bannon.

Sources: [Kelsey Tamborrino, “Life comes at you PFAS,” Politico Morning Energy, 07/25/17, Corbin Hiar, “Zinke aide takes on communications shop,” Energy & Environment News, 02/02/17, LinkedIn Profile for Heather Swift, accessed 05/23/17, The Center for Responsive Politics Search for Mercury Public Affairs, Search for Mercury Public Affairs- Summary, 2009, Center for Responsive Politics, accessed 05/23/17, Search for Mercury Public Affairs- Summary, 2010, Center for Responsive Politics, accessed 06/07/17, “Spotted at the Bannon and Breitbart Party,” Politico, 10/20/17, Lisa Rein, “Interior Dept. ordered Glacier park chief, other climate expert pulled from Zuckerberg tour,” Washington Post, 07/20/17, Search for DCI Group- Summary, 2013, Center for Responsive Politics, accessed 05/24/17, Sarah Emerson, “FOIA: Internal Emails Show Government Officials Scrambling to Explain Why Climate Scientist’s Meeting With Mark Zuckerberg Was Canceled,” VICE, 08/25/17, Darryl Fears, “Interior Department whistleblower resigns; bipartisan former appointees object to Zinke’s statements,” Washington Post, 10/06/17, and Drew Harwell and Lisa Rein, “Zinke took $12,000 charter flight home in oil executive’s plane, documents show,” Washington Post, 09/28/17]

Special Interests

Steve Bannon (Political Extremism)

In October 2017, Heather Swift attended a party co-hosted by former Trump strategist and white nationalist Steve Bannon.

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also connected to:

ExxonMobil Corporation (Resource Development on Public Lands)

While Swift worked DCI Group, a public relations and lobbying firm, DCI Group was paid $320,000 to lobby for multinational oil and gas company ExxonMobil.

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also connected to:

NRG Energy (Resource Development on Public Lands)

While Swift worked at Mercury, a public affairs and lobbying firm, Mercury was paid $40,000 to lobby for NRG Energy, an energy company that owns natural gas, oil, and coal plants across the country.

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also connected to:

Peabody Energy (Resource Development on Public Lands)

While Swift worked at Mercury, a public affairs and lobbying firm, Mercury was paid $280,000 to lobby for Peabody Energy, which is the largest private-sector coal company in the world.

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also connected to:

Background Information

Previous Employers

Additional Background on Employers of Note:

Heather Swift worked for a public relations firm called DCI Group when it was paid $320,000 to lobby for ExxonMobil.

[LinkedIn Profile for Heather Swift, accessed 05/23/17, and The Center for Responsive Politics Search for DCI Group, “Firm Profile: Summary, 2013,” accessed 05/23/17]

Heather Swift worked for Mercury, a public affairs firm, when it was lobbying for Peabody Energy, the “largest private-sector coal company in the world” and NRG Energy, an energy company that owns natural gas, oil, and coal plants across the country. The lobbying contracts were worth more than $300,000.

In 2009, Mercury was paid $40,000 to lobby for NRG Energy, an energy company that owns natural gas, oil, and coal plants across the country.

[The Center for Responsive Politics Search for Mercury Public Affairs, “Firm Profile: Summary, 2009,” accessed 05/23/17, NRG Energy, “Our Assets,” 03/31/17, and LinkedIn Profile for Heather Swift, accessed 05/23/17]

In 2009 and 2010, Mercury was paid $280,000 to lobby for Peabody Energy, which is the “largest private-sector coal company in the world.”

[The Center for Responsive Politics Search for Mercury Public Affairs, “Firm Profile: Summary, 2009,” accessed 05/23/17, The Center for Responsive Politics Search for Mercury Public Affairs, “Firm Profile: Summary, 2010,” accessed 05/23/17, and Camila Domonoske, “U.S. Coal Giant Peabody Energy Files For Bankruptcy,” NPR, 04/13/16]

Heather Swift worked for DCI Group, “a Republican public relations, lobbying and consulting shop,” when it was paid $320,000 to lobby for Exxon Mobil and when it was paid $5 million to lobby for the coal industry trade association.

Heather Swift worked at DCI Group, “a Republican public relations, lobbying and consulting shop” from December 2012 to July 2013.

[Corbin Hilar, “Zinke aide takes on communications shop,” Energy & Environment, 02/02/17, and Department of the Interior, FOIA Response, 08/24/17]

Exxon Mobil paid DCI Group $320,000 to lobby in 2013.

[Search for DCI Group- Summary for 2013, Center for Responsive Politics, accessed 05/24/17]

Later, in April 2016, DCI was “subpoenaed… for records relating to their role in helping ExxonMobil” with “climate change denial.” DCI created a “now-defunct” website that “promoted climate change denial and which received funding from Exxon.”

DCI also “works with the coal industry trade association, the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE).” ACCCE paid DCI “paid $5 million over a two-year period from 2013-2014.”

[Nick Surgey, “DCI Group Subpoenaed in Expanding Exxon Climate Denial Investigation,” Huffington Post, 04/20/16]

Heather Swift has worked for many Republicans running for federal office, including Ryan Zinke, Terri Lynn Land, David Young, Tommy Thompson, and Mark Neumann.

[LinkedIn Profile for Heather Swift, accessed 05/23/17]

Heather Swift defended David Young, who was then her boss, when Young said that he wanted to “share the good news of Jesus Christ” to Jewish Senator Chuck Schumer. 

Heather Swift previously worked for Republican candidate David Young who was running for the U.S. Senate in Iowa. In July 2013, Young said that, if elected Senator “he would invite New York Senator Chuck Schumer to lunch so that he could share the good news of Jesus Christ.” Chuck Schumer is Jewish.

Heather Swift defended Young’s remarks by saying, “‘The sharing of faith isn’t solely for the purpose of conversion; it is also a tool for understanding one’s colleagues and building deeper relationships.'”

[Craig Robinson, “Candidates Court Christian Conservative Voters Near Cedar Rapids,” The Iowa Republican, 07/17/13, and Warren J. Blumenfeld, “Christian Proselytizing: A Form of Oppression? ‘Only Death Will Tell!’,” Huffington Post, 07/22/13]

While Heather Swift worked at Mercury Public Affairs, she assisted former New York Governor George Pataki with his organization, No American Debt.

George Pataki founded No American Debt “‘to hold Obama accountable for the economy and growing national debt,'” and to “‘educate the general public about the severity of America’s $14 trillion debt and how this debt impacts everyday Americans.'”

[Department of Interior, FOIA Response, 08/24/17, and Maureen Mackey, “George Pataki, Debt Hawk: Is He a Candidate?,” Fiscal Times, 06/21/11]

Current Activity

Heather Swift kept the Glacier National Park Superintendent and a climate change expert from meeting with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg when Zuckerberg visited Glacier National Park.  

When Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg visited Glacier National Park in July 2017, Facebook “specifically requested” that Zuckerberg meet with Dan Fagre, a research ecologist at the US Geological Survey (USGS). Zuckerberg and Fagre were scheduled to meet to “discuss the effects of climate change on local glaciers.” USGS appeared “excited about Fagre’s meeting with Zuckerberg.”

However, the meeting was canceled by Heather Swift. Swift, in a July 12, 2017 email about the Zuckerberg visit, wrote “‘just to be clear USGS will be standing down from the event as well as this is not an official event.'” The “abrupt withdrawal was seen as confusing, if not sinister.” USGS “‘did not make the decision'” to remove Fagre from the meeting.

Heather Swift “assumed control of all press outreach regarding Fagre’s dismissal.” USGS staff was instructed that, if they received “‘any inquiries regarding USGS role recent climate change meeting at Glacier NP, [to] please make no comments’ and refer all press to Swift.”

[Sarah Emerson, “FOIA: Internal Emails Show Government Officials Scrambling to Explain Why Climate Scientist’s Meeting With Mark Zuckerberg Was Canceled,” VICE, 08/25/17, Sarah Emerson, “‘Yikes, This Is Bad Press’: Internal Emails Show Federal Employees Asking Why a Climate Scientist’s Meeting With Mark Zuckerberg Was Canceled,” VICE, 09/12/17, and Sarah Emerson, “FOIA: NPS Director Suggested Trump Administration ‘Manage the Talking Point’ of Climate Scientist’s Meeting with Mark Zuckerberg,” VICE, 08/26/17]

Glacier National Park Superintendent Jeff Mow was also not allowed to be involved with Zuckerberg’s tour, even though Mow holds the “top job at Glacier.” Mow is “known as a climate expert who frequently tells visitors that the retreating ice sheets at Glacier are evidence of a climate undergoing rapid change.”

“Heather Swift made it clear that she did not want Glacier National Park Superintendent Jeff Mow involved” in Zuckerberg’s tour, “according to three people with knowledge of the decision.” Mow himself “was not involved with the decision” not to be on the tour. Additionally, “Park Service’s public affairs staff was instructed not to post anything about Zuckerberg’s visit on its Facebook or other social media accounts, including sharing a Facebook post he wrote during the visit in which he registered his alarm at the shrinking glaciers at the park.” Interior Department officials’ decision to “micromanage” Zuckerberg’s trip to Glacier was “highly unusual.”

[Lisa Rein, “Interior Dept. ordered Glacier park chief, other climate expert pulled from Zuckerberg tour,” Washington Post, 07/20/17]

Swift denied that “the decision to pull Mow and Fagre from the tour was related to the climate change debate,” claiming instead that instead the decision was “‘about using government resources and tax dollars responsibly.'”

[“Interior Department prevents glacier expert from accompanying Mark Zuckerberg on tour,” CBS News, 07/21/17]

Heather Swift has defended Secretary Zinke’s controversial reassignment of top career officials within the Interior Department.

In June 2017, Secretary Zinke started reassigning members of the Senior Executive Service to different decisions in the Interior Department. Some have observed that the Senior Executive Service employees were “perhaps unlawfully” reassigned.

[Juliet Eilperin and Lisa Rein, “Zinke moving dozens of senior Interior Department officials in shake-up,” Washington Post, 06/16/17, and Darryl Fears, “Interior Department whistleblower resigns; bipartisan former appointees object to Zinke’s statements,” Washington Post, 10/06/17]

Joel Clement was one of the officials reassigned. Clement, who resigned from Interior in October 2017, claims that “the Trump administration retaliated against him for publicly disclosing how climate change affects Alaska Native communities.”

[Darryl Fears, “Interior Department whistleblower resigns; bipartisan former appointees object to Zinke’s statements,” Washington Post, 10/06/17]

According to Heather Swift, the “‘personnel moves'” were “‘conducted to better serve the taxpayer and the Department’s operations through matching Senior Executive skill sets with mission and operational requirements.'”

[Juliet Eilperin and Lisa Rein, “Zinke moving dozens of senior Interior Department officials in shake-up,” Washington Post, 06/16/17]

Heather Swift has defended Secretary Zinke’s use of thousands of dollars of taxpayer money on chartered flights. According to Swift, the chartered flights were “booked only when feasible commercial flights were unavailable.” Secretary Zinke is currently under investigation for his use of chartered flights.

In June 2017, Secretary Zinke “chartered a flight from Las Vegas to near his home in Montana… aboard a plane owned by oil-and-gas executives,” a flight that “cost taxpayers $12,375.”

A few months earlier, in March 2017, “Zinke and his official entourage also boarded private flights between the Caribbean islands of St. Thomas and St. Croix during a three-day trip to the Virgin Islands.” The trip included “an official snorkeling tour.”

Heather Swift defended the flights, saying, “Zinke’s charter flights were authorized by ethics officials and booked only when feasible commercial flights were unavailable.” Swift “did not provide documentation of the approvals.” Swift “could not give a cost estimate” for the Virgin Islands trip, but said “tickets for Zinke and staff were paid out of the agency’s budget.”

[Drew Harwell and Lisa Rein, “Zinke took $12,000 charter flight home in oil executive’s plane, documents show,” Washington Post, 09/28/17]

The Interior Department’s office of inspector general is currently investigating Secretary Zinke’s use of chartered planes.

[Jacqueline Thomsen, “Interior watchdog investigating Zinke’s use of chartered jets,” The Hill, 10/02/17]

Heather Swift has denied that anything improper happened when a Whitefish-based power company secured a $300 million government contract to restore electricity to Puerto Rico, saying that Secretary Zinke knows the company’s CEO only because “they both live in a small town.”

Whitefish Energy, a “Whitefish-based power company… secured a $300 million contract to restore electricity to Puerto Rico in the wake of Hurricane Maria.” The contract has spurred “questions from government agencies and Congress about why the 2-year-old operation from Montana was selected over larger, more experienced providers.” The company has also “come under fire because of alleged ties to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, whose hometown is Whitefish.”

Heather Swift has defended Secretary Zinke’s relationship with Whitefish Energy CEO Andy Techmanski. According to Swift, “‘The Zinkes and the Techmanskis know each other because they both live in a small town (population 6,000) where everyone knows everyone, and his son joined a friend who worked a summer job at one of their construction sites.'”

[Mackenzie Reiss, “Questions Arise About Whitefish Company’s Puerto Rico Contract,” Daily Inter Lake, 10/24/17]

Heather Swift has defended the Interior Department’s lack of transparency in responding to FOIAs.

The Wilderness Society filed public records requests with the Interior Department but, in September 2017, after filing “more than 30 public records requests” with the Department, received only one response.

Heather Swift disputed the number of FOIA requests that had “gone unanswered.”

[“Interior: Green groups slam push for reg reform,” ClimateWire, 09/06/17]

Financials

Financial Disclosure

Department of the Interior salary: $123,223

[Heather N. Swift, ProPublica’s Trump Town, accessed 03/15/18]

Other Information

Heather Swift, in October 2017, attended a book signing party for Laura Ingraham’s new book that was hosted by Steve Bannon and Breitbart. 

[“Spotted at the Bannon and Breitbart Party,” Politico, 10/20/17]