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Associate Deputy Secretary of the Interior

James Cason is serving as the Associate Deputy Secretary of the Department of Interior. The Associate Deputy Secretary of the Interior “reports to the Deputy Secretary and is the Deputy Secretary’s principal aide” and “provides advice and assistance in the administration of the Deputy Secretary’s responsibilities, by managing internal and program activities of the office.” The specific duties of the Associate Deputy Secretary include “acting as the focal point for review of proposed policies, regulations, and legislation, in order to ensure coordination within DOI and with other agencies, Congress, public interest groups, and state, local, and tribal governments.” Additionally, “the Associate Deputy Secretary is the Deputy Secretary’s liaison to DOI’s legislative and communications directors, and… coordinates sensitive discussions between the Deputy Secretary and other high-level DOI officials.”

James Cason, who has been described as a “‘100 percent corporation man,'” has gone back and forth through the government-industry revolving door, bouncing between the federal government and industry groups. In 1976, Cason began his career working for Western Environmental Trade Associates, “a trade association of western industries that… lobbied against clean -air and other environmental legislation.”

In 1982, he went to Washington, DC to work for the Interior Department, working for the Director of the Bureau of Land Management, and then, from 1985 to 1990, as the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Land and Minerals. In 1989, George H.W. Bush nominated Cason “to be assistant secretary of Agriculture,” but Cason was “forced to withdraw from consideration after strong resistance from Senate Democrats.” After that, Cason left the federal government to work for Carborundum, a ceramics maker whose parent company was purchased by Standard Oil of Ohio, which was later purchased by BP.

Under George W. Bush, Cason returned to the federal government, working as the Associate Deputy Secretary of Interior until 2009. Cason then began working on behalf of private energy issues. From 2010 to 2012, Cason worked “a Senior Member of the Energy, Transportation and Environment Team” at Beltway consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton. Then, from 2012 to 2013, he was “Executive Vice President and Principal of Energy and Alternative Energy at Kelly, Anderson & Associates, Inc.”

Sources: [Interior Department, Press Release, 05/26/17, Anthony Gamboa to Jeff Bingaman, 10/22/02, Department of the Interior, FOIA Response, 06/07/17, Jack Anderson and Dale Van Atta, “Protector of the Land–or Industry?,” Washington Post, 05/12/89, John Lancaster, “Environmentalists Hit ‘Shocking’ Appointment,” Washington Post, 07/11/89, “Nomination of James E. Cason To Be an Assistant Secretary of Agriculture,” American Presidency Project, 03/23/89, “Cason, Once Denied Post, Joins Interior,” Washington Post, 08/25/01, and “James Cason,” Bloomberg, accessed 07/06/17]

Special Interests

Western Environmental Trade Association (Resource Development on Public Lands)

Cason worked as a project manager for Western Environmental Trade Association (WETA), a pro-industry trade association of Western industries that lobbied against clean-air and other environmental legislation.

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Carborundum Corporation/ Unifrax (Resource Development on Public Lands)

Cason worked for the Carborundum Corporation, a manufacturer of silica-based products, which was owned by oil companies. Cason was also the Risk Management VP of Unifrax, which spun off from Carborundum in 1996.

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Timber Lobby (Resource Development on Public Lands)

When he worked for Interior in the 1980s, Cason tried to compromise the Endangered Species Act on behalf of timber companies by pressuring the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to rule against listing the spotted owl as a threatened species.

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Oil and Gas Lobby (Resource Development on Public Lands)

When he worked for Interior in the 1980s, Cason changed Interior Department rules relating to oil and gas royalties after industry complained; he also helped sell oil shale lands to private developers at prices far below market value.

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Coal Lobby (Resource Development on Public Lands)

When he worked for Interior in the 1980s, Cason authorized publication of a rule permitting mining in national parks.

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Colorado Oil and Gas Association (Resource Development on Public Lands)

In summer 2017, Cason spoke at the Colorado Oil and Gas Association’s annual energy summit in Denver, which was sponsored by BP, Anadarko, and Noble Energy.

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Background Information

Previous Employers

Additional Background on Employers of Note:

James Cason, in the late 1970s, worked for Western Environmental Trade Association, a “pro-industry” “trade association of western industries that… lobbied against clean-air and other environmental legislation.”

James Cason, from 1976 to 1978, worked as a project manager for Western Environmental Trade Association (WETA), a “pro-industry” “trade association of western industries that… lobbied against clean-air and other environmental legislation.” WETA had members “from agriculture, labor, recreation, business, and industry” and was organized “for the purpose of promoting employment and economic opportunities.” [“Nomination of James E. Cason To Be an Assistant Secretary of Agriculture,” American Presidency Project, 03/23/89, Garry Moes, “Business News,” Associated Press, 09/30/80, John Lancaster, “Environmentalists Hit ‘Shocking’ Appointment,” Washington Post, 07/11/89, and Mike Micone, “Testimony re: Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge,” United States Fish and Wildlife Service, 08/02/84, 441]

During his time working for the Reagan Interior Department, James Cason catered to extractive industries. Cason changed oil and gas royalty rules “after industry complained,” was “instrumental” in the sale of thousands of acres of Colorado oil shale lands for a price “far below their market value,” and “tried to stop regulations that called for modest limits on drilling in national forests.” He also attempted to “compromise the Endangered Species Act on behalf of northwestern timber companies” to keep USFWS from listing the spotted owl as an Endangered Species.

James Cason worked in the Interior Department under the Reagan administration. From 1982 to 1985, Cason worked as the Special Assistant to the Director of the Bureau of Land Management, and from 1985 to 1990, worked as the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Land and Minerals. [Department of the Interior, FOIA Response, 06/07/17, “Cason, Once Denied Post, Joins Interior,” Washington Post, 08/25/01, and Karen Timmons, “Cason withdraws name from nomination,” United Press International, 11/21/89]

According to environmental groups, when he worked in the Interior Department in the 1980s, James Cason “attempt[ed] to compromise the Endangered Species Act on behalf of northwestern timber companies” by “exerting undue pressure on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to rule against listing the spotted owl as a threatened species.” [John Lancaster, “Environmentalists Hit ‘Shocking’ Appointment,” Washington Post, 07/11/89]

When he worked in the Reagan administration, James Cason, “delay[ed] the Forest Service from writing its own oil and gas leasing rules” and “chang[ed] Interior Department rules — after industry complained — for checking if oil and gas royalties had been paid.” [Karen Timmons, “Cason withdraws name from nomination,” United Press International, 11/21/89]

When he worked in the Reagan administration, James Cason was also “instrumental in the sale of thousands of acres of oil shale lands in Colorado for $2.50 an acre” a price “far below their market value.” He then “approved granting titles to some 82,000 acres, even though Congress had made clear its intent to revise the program” and “one set of 17,000 acres was purchased by private developers for $42,000 and sold months later for $37 million.” [“Cason, Once Denied Post, Joins Interior,” Washington Post, 08/25/01 and Gale Courtney Toensing, “Interior’s James Cason under examination,” Indian Country Today, 09/14/07]

When he worked in the Reagan administration, James Cason “tried to stop regulations that called for modest limits on drilling in national forests and made it easier to mine in national parks.” [Gale Courtney Toensing, “Interior’s James Cason under examination,” Indian Country Today, 09/14/07]

James Cason was nominated by George H.W. Bush in 1989 to be “assistant agriculture secretary in charge of the U.S. Forest Service and Soil Conservation Service.” After drawing harsh criticism from environmental groups and “facing certain defeat by the Senate,” Cason withdrew himself from consideration.

In 1989, George H.W. Bush nominated James Cason to be “assistant agriculture secretary in charge of the U.S. Forest Service and Soil Conservation Service.”

However, Cason’s nomination drew harsh criticism from environmental groups who called him “‘pro-exploitation'” and said he “would be a poor steward of public lands.” [John Lancaster, “Environmentalists Hit ‘Shocking’ Appointment,” Washington Post, 07/11/89, and Charles Abbott, “Nominee denies skewing wildlife decisions,” UPI, 09/27/89]

James Cason was “opposed by the Sierra Club, National Wildlife Federation, Wilderness Society, League of Conservation Voters and National Audubon Society.” [“NATION: Controversial Bush Nominee for Environment Post Gives Up Fight,” Los Angeles Times, 11/20/89]

In November 1989, after an “8-month battle between President Bush and environmentalists,” James Cason, “facing certain defeat by the Senate,” “asked President Bush to withdraw his name from nomination” for the Assistant Agriculture Secretary position. [“NATION: Controversial Bush Nominee for Environment Post Gives Up Fight,” Los Angeles Times, 11/20/89 and Karen Timmons, “Cason withdraws name from nomination,” United Press International, 11/21/89]

After working in the Reagan administration, James Cason reportedly worked as a timber lobbyist.

After working in the Reagan administration, James Cason reportedly “became a timber lobbyist.” [Weston Kosova, “What’s Gale Norton Trying to Hide?Outside Online, 01/06/02]

In the 1990s, James Cason worked for the Carborundum Corporation, a ceramics maker whose parent company was purchased by Standard Oil of Ohio, which was later purchased by BP.

James Cason, in the 1990s, “worked for the Carborundum Corporation, a manufacturer of silica-based products. He said the Kennecott Copper Corporation purchased Carborundum, and Standard Oil of Ohio later purchased Kennecott. He said British Petroleum eventually purchased Standard Oil. Cason explained that although oil companies owned Carborundum, it was involved in a ‘side market’ that was unrelated to the oil and gas industry.” Cason was the Risk Management VP of Unifrax, which spun off from Carborundum in 1996. [“Cason, Once Denied Post, Joins Interior,” Washington Post, 08/25/01, Thomas Hartley, “Unifrax manufactures success,” Buffalo Business First, 05/25/05, and Department of Interior Office of the Inspector General, “Transmittal of Office of Inspector General Report of Investigation – ‘Minerals Management Service: False Claims Allegations,'” 09/19/07]

In 2001, under James Cason’s leadership, a computer system at the Interior Department controlling trust fund payments to American Indians was shut down. As a result, $15 million in payments went unpaid, putting the “health and livelihood of thousands of individual Indians throughout the country in disarray.”  

When James Cason worked in the George W. Bush administration, the computer system that housed individual trust data for American Indians was shut down because of the potential of an information breach. Although Interior “had already asked for permission to reconnect the Integrated Resources Management System (IRMS) to the Internet so that trust fund payments could be made,” Cason and other officials “ignored a provision which would have allowed IRMS to be reactivated temporarily” and “didn’t seek permission to reconnect a critical system to the Internet” until weeks later. Due to the delay, a $15 million payment to American Indians went unpaid, resulting in putting the “health and livelihood of thousands of individual Indians throughout the country in disarray.” [“Interior waited weeks on trust fund shutdown,” Indianz.com, 01/09/02]

In 2005, in response to class-action legislation brought by Elouise Cobell, James Cason said Native Americans were not “victimized” by accounting practices at the Interior Department and claimed that the Interior Department’s accounting was “pretty darn accurate.” However, DOI would go on to settle with Elouise Cobell for $3.4 billion, which was “considered the largest class action lawsuit in US history.”

In response to Elouise Cobell’s class action lawsuit claiming Native Americans were “victimized by… horrible management” of lands held in trust for tribes by Department of the Interior, James Cason said, “we haven’t found the evidence of that in this particular issue… in the issue that we’re talking about, which is accounting for lands held in trust by Indians or for Indians, we have not found the evidence at this point factually to concur with that kind of a position. What we have found instead is that so far the accounting has been pretty darn accurate.” [“James Cason on Washington Journal,” CSPAN, 07/06/05 (08:30)]

“In the mid-1990s, native American representatives brought Cobell v. Salazar against the United States, often considered the largest class action lawsuit in US history. It was finally settled for $3.4 billion, after more than a decade of legal battles, in 2009.” [Christina Beck, “Why the US Government will pay Native Americans Almost Half a Billion Dollars,” Christian Science Monitor, 09/28/16]

In 2007, James Cason wrote a letter supporting J. Steven Griles when Griles was under investigation for “lying to Congress in the Jack Abramoff investigation.”

James Cason, in 2007, wrote a letter requesting leniency for J. Steven Griles when Griles was under investigation for “lying to Congress in the Jack Abramoff investigation.” [Dan Berman, “Griles seeks community service with motorized-recreation group,” Greenwire, 06/15/07]

Political Connections

James Cason has donated nearly $3,000 to conservative candidates and causes around the country, including the Republican National Committee, George W. Bush, Pat Toomey, Paul Ryan, and Mitt Romney.

[Political Moneyline Search for James Cason, CQ, accessed 07/06/17, “Republican National Committee,” Federal Election Commission, 12/29/14, and “Ryan for Congress Inc.,” Federal Election Commission, 05/17/16]

Current Activity

Ryan Zinke, in an April 2017 memo, told all Assistant Secretaries at the Interior Department to report to James Cason on “‘proposed decisions’ that have ‘nationwide, regional, or statewide impacts,'” and required Cason to sign off on such decisions before they can be implemented. In the same memo, Zinke also demanded that “Department of Interior grants of more than $100,000 be reviewed” by Cason. Critics have observed that this memo “greatly expanded” James Cason’s role “in the awarding of grants and in policy decision-making.” Although these procedures are supposed to be temporary, the memo didn’t provide an end date.

Ryan Zinke, on April 12, 2017, “sent a memo to the Assistant Secretaries of the Department of the Interior directing them to ensure that all bureau heads and office directors report to” Acting Deputy Secretary James Cason on all “‘proposed decisions’ that have ‘nationwide, regional, or statewide impacts,’ and that decisions may not be made until the Acting Deputy Secretary has ‘reviewed the report and provided clearance.'” [Raul Grijalva and A. Donald McEachin to Ryan Zinke, 05/02/17]

Ryan Zinke, in the same April 12, 2017 order, demanded that “Department of Interior grants of more than $100,000 be reviewed by his deputy secretary, James Cason.” This was supposed to be for “Zinke to understand ‘the immense impact grants and cooperative agreements have on’ the Interior.” [Brett French, “Letters attempt to sway Zinke; Interior still silent on grant holdup to states,” Billings Gazette, 05/14/17]

House Democrats observed that Ryan Zinke’s April 12, 2017 memo “greatly expanded” James Cason’s role “in the awarding of grants and in policy decision-making.” [House Natural Resource Democrats, Press Release, 05/02/17]

Congressman Raul Grijalva and Congressman Donald McEachin wrote a letter to Secretary Ryan Zinke on May 2, 2017, in which they pointed out that “while the memo purports to be in part for the purpose of allowing the Acting Deputy Secretary to learn more about how Departmental decisions are made,” James Cason already served as Associate Deputy Secretary for the Department of the Interior from 2001 to 2009 and therefore “would be expected to already have a good understanding about Departmental processes.” As of May 25, 2017, Grijalva and McEachin had received no response to their letter. [Raul Grijalva and A. Donald McEachin to Ryan Zinke, 05/02/17 and House Natural Resource Democrats, Press Release, 05/25/17]

Additionally, although the memo said the “‘procedures [were] temporary’ and that business as usual would return ‘as soon as possible,’ no end date is given.” [Brett French, “Zinke memo delays Montana fish, wildlife funds,” Billings Gazette, 04/28/17]

Ryan Zinke’s “new review process for approving grants” has sparked a “slowdown in distribution of federal funds,” and state fish and wildlife agencies anticipate that the new review process will have harmful effects on the programs they run.

Ryan Zinke’s April 12, 2017 order demanding that grants of over $100,000 be approved by James Cason sparked a “slowdown in distribution of federal funds.” Since the order, state wildlife agencies have been “sweating the sudden blockage of federal funding,” and are wondering if they will be reimbursed for money they spend. On May 3, 2017, Nick Wiley, President of the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, sent Zinke a letter in which he said that state fish and wildlife agencies “anticipate harmful effects on the operation and maintenance of the states’ wildlife management areas, hatcheries, research programs, boat access, and other grants that provide for public access and use of facilities by hunters, anglers, boaters and recreational shooters” as a result of the “new review process for approving grants.” [Brett French, “Letters attempt to sway Zinke; Interior still silent on grant holdup to states,” Billings Gazette, 05/14/17, Jason Blevins, “Colorado Parks & Wildlife facing budget cuts as Interior Department delays federal grants,” Denver Post, 05/19/17, and Nick Wiley to Ryan Zinke, 05/03/17]

Ryan Zinke, in April 2017, chose James Cason to co-lead “a task force for cutting regulations.” Cason has said of this position that he is the “regulatory czar for the department” and that, as regulatory czar he held what he described as a “regulatory party” where he and others decided to cut two-thirds of the rules in promulgation at the Interior Department.

Ryan Zinke, in April 2017, chose James Cason and Daniel Jorjani to “lead a task force for cutting regulations.” [Arianna Skibell, “Ex-Koch operative tapped to lead rule-cutting task force,” Energy & Environment, 04/24/17]

James Cason, when addressing Partners Outdoors in 2017, said of his role in Ryan Zinke’s Interior Department, “One of my hats, in addition to the acting deputy secretary, is I guess I am also the regulatory czar for the department. And one of the first things that we did is we held, I’ll call it a ‘regulatory party,’ with some of my colleagues. And we ended up cutting out about two-thirds of the rules that were in promulgation in the department. We basically got to a point where we said, ‘we don’t need this one, and this one looks problematic, so we cut a bunch out of the regulatory process…'” [“James Cason Addresses Partners Outdoors 2017,” Fun Outdoors on YouTube, accessed 07/25/17 (24:16)]

James Cason was the “key architect” of the “Thursday night massacre” when in June 2017 he directed the reassignment of “dozens of top career officials” in the Interior Department. The push to reorganize the department was “much broader than what Republican and Democratic administrations have pursued in the past” and some employees said the changes were meant to “undermine the department’s work on environmental priorities.” Cason has said that he and Zinke are trying to “run the train as fast as it will go in our current circumstances” at Interior, even without Presidential appointment and Senate confirmation employees in the Department.

James Cason was “the key architect of what some Interior Department employees now call the Thursday night massacre,” when in June 2017 he directed the reassignment of “dozens of top career officials” at Interior. The push to reorganize the department “appear[ed] much broader than what Republican and Democratic administrations have pursued in the past” and “some of the transferred employees said the moves appeared intended to undermine the department’s work on environmental priorities.” Administrations “usually wait until the Senate has confirmed appointees that oversee individual agencies within a department,” but at the time, Zinke remained Interior’s only Senate-confirmed appointee. [Coral Davenport and Nicholas Fandos, “As Interior Secretary Swaggers Through Parks, His Staff Rolls Back Regulations,” New York Times, 07/25/17, and Juliet Eilperin and Lisa Rein, “Zinke moving dozens of senior Interior Department officials in shake-up,” Washington Post, 06/16/17]

In June 2017, “in what some department staffers now call the ‘Thursday-night massacre,’ Cason sent memos to more than two dozen of the DOI’s highest-ranking civil servants informing them of reassignments; they had 15 days to accept the new positions or retire. The Office of the Inspector General is currently investigating how the transfers were determined; some employees believe they were designed to push out long-serving staff as part of a department-wide purge, and that climate scientists in particular were targeted.” [Adam Federman, “The Plot to Loot America’s Wilderness,” The Nation, 11/16/17]

James Cason has said of his position as a non-Senate confirmed appointee that he has “had the conversation” with Ryan Zinke and he and Zinke “don’t think that we should wait at all for our PAS [Presidential appointment and Senate confirmation] team to come on board, that we’re basically making decisions now and trying to run the train as fast as it will go in our current circumstances. We do have a beachhead team of about 30 or 35 people that are politicals. They tend to be lower-rated people, but we’re tasking everybody to move the program forward as fast as we can.” [“James Cason Addresses Partners Outdoors 2017,” Fun Outdoors on YouTube, accessed 07/25/17 (20:16), and National Labor Relations Board v. SW Ambulance, 10/16]

There have been “a great deal of concerns” from tribal leaders about James Cason’s role at the Department of the Interior, particularly, that “land decisions that were previously made at the assistant secretary level” are now being made by Cason.

When Ryan Zinke testified before the Senate Energy Committee on the Interior FY 2018 budget, Senator Al Franken commented that he had “heard a great deal of concerns form [sic] tribal leaders” about the role James Cason was playing at the Department of the Interior. Franken added that he was “hearing that land decisions that were previously made at the assistant secretary level will now be made by Mr. Cason” and that he had “heard that Mr. Cason has been delegated a great deal of decision making that normally is within the secretary’s purview.” [Al Franken, Senate Energy Hearing on the Department of the Interior FY 2018 Budget Transcript, Senate Energy Committee, 06/20/17]

In June 2017, James Cason wrote a draft decision in which he concluded that “there was not sufficient evidence to demonstrate a relationship between the federal government and the [Mashpee] tribe on or before 1934.” In an “unprecedented” move, Cason wanted to “consider whether the tribe’s relationship with Massachusetts could stand in for a relationship with the federal government,” an idea that Indian law experts called ridiculous and said was “not legally sound.”

The Interior Department is currently searching “for a way to allow the Mashpee tribe’s 171 acres on the Cape and 150 acres in Taunton, where it intends to build a casino, to remain in trust.” James Cason wrote in a draft decision in June 2017 that “there was not sufficient evidence to demonstrate a relationship between the federal government and the tribe on or before 1934.” However, in an “unprecedented” move, Cason “invited the both the casino plaintiffs and the tribe to submit evidence on a new front, one that will consider whether the tribe’s relationship with Massachusetts could stand in for a relationship with the federal government.” [Chris Lindahl, “A new look at Mashpee’s tribe status,” Cape Cod Times, 07/17/17]

Attorney and Indian law expert Donald C. Mitchell said that “the matter of considering the state’s authority over the Mashpee tribe” was “not legally sound.” Mitchell said that he was “‘stunned… at the ridiculousness'” of Cason’s idea. [Chris Lindahl, “A new look at Mashpee’s tribe status,” Cape Cod Times, 07/17/17]

In a congressional hearing in May 2017, James Cason “showed clear disdain” for a popular tribal land buyback program, which the Trump administration is apparently “prepared to let… die.” Cason criticized the popular program and described Native Americans as “greedy” people who “‘want free money.'”

In a congressional hearing in May 2017, James Cason “showed clear disdain for the way” the Cobell settlement and related buy-back program were administered, and also made a “characterization of Indian Country as greedy.” “The Trump administration is prepared to let the Land Buy-Back Program for Tribal Nations die after a top official said it wasn’t achieving results.” [“Trump administration ready to let Cobell program run out of funds,” Indianz.com, 05/24/17]

In the same hearing, James Cason said that “Interior has not been very successful in materially reducing fractionated interests,” and he complained that so far the Interior Department has “expended 75 percent of the funds and consolidated only 14 percent of the interests.” [James Cason, “House Committee on Natural Resources Hearing,” YouTube, 05/23/17, (26:30)]

In the same May 2017 hearing, when asked if any tribal leaders support the changes to the Cobell program, James Cason said, “I have not had any tribal leaders come in, and I think, in fairness to everybody, the way that the prior administration ran this program is a very good deal for tribal leaders. Essentially, if you take a look at it, we provide money to the tribe to go out and search for fractionated interest that they want. We buy those fractionated interests, and we give it to them. And so I don’t think there’s any tribal leader that would say, ‘gee, I don’t want free money.'” Representative Norma Torres replied, “well it’s not necessarily free money. Remember they were the original owners of this land that was taken from them, pillaged from them.” [James Cason and Norma Torres, “House Committee on Natural Resources Hearing,” YouTube, 05/23/17, (41:30)]

In the same hearing, Representative Norma Torres asked if tribes “have the authority to purchase fractionated interests from individuals.” Cason replied, “they do have certain authorities to purchase interest, but why would they do that when we give it to them for free?” Torres pointed out that they may not be able to afford land. [James Cason and Norma Torres, “House Committee on Natural Resources Hearing,” YouTube, 05/23/17, (01:16:50)]

James Cason, in the same May 2017 congressional hearing, criticized the Cobell land buyback program for spending too much money on individual pieces of land and suggested that DOI may “consider amendments” to shift decision-making from tribes to the DOI because the department “can leverage the money a lot better” than tribes can.

James Cason, in the same May 2017 congressional hearing, acknowledged the “popularity” of the Cobell land buyback program in Indian County. He proposed that Congress “consider amendments to allow Interior to leverage the remaining resources to carefully target interests for acquisition.” [James Cason, “House Committee on Natural Resources Hearing,” YouTube, 05/23/17, (29:20)]

James Cason suggested the Interior Department may shift decision-making to DOI from tribes on the Cobell land buyback program because “‘we can leverage the money a lot better.'” He added that it will “‘be basically up to me” to make changes to the program “unless congress dictates otherwise.” The buy-back program “was part of a $3.4 billion settlement of a class-action lawsuit brought by Elouise Cobell, a Blackfeet tribal member, who charged the government with decades of mismanaging tribal property that it was supposed to hold in trust for Native Americans.” [“Trump administration ready to let Cobell program run out of funds,” Indianz.com, 05/24/17, and Joe Gilmore, “Despite $1.2 billion in purchases, tribal land buy-back ‘treading water,'” Cronkite News, 06/02/17]

In March 2017, James Cason led a meeting about the Navajo Generating Station, “one of the country’s largest coal plants,” where Interior officials promised to “‘turn over every rock'” to keep the coal plant running, and Cason himself promised to talk about NGS’s “‘regulatory costs.'” Cason further suggested the Bureau of Reclamation could “takeover” Kayenta mine, currently owned by Peabody Energy, in order to help keep NGS open. The Navajo Generation Station is “one of the nation’s largest generators of carbon dioxide.”

In March 2017, James Cason, as acting Interior Department Secretary, led a meeting where Interior officials promised to “‘turn over every rock'” to keep the Navajo Generating Station (NGS), “one of the country’s largest coal plants,” running. In the meeting, Cason suggested the Trump administration had “‘an appetite to encourage coal use,'” and he committed to examining if there were any “‘regulatory costs'” to “‘pick out'” to reduce the cost of keeping NGS open.

In the same meeting, James Cason suggested the coal plant could reduce its operating costs by “addressing some of the regulatory costs at the Kayenta mine, a Peabody Energy Corp.-operated facility.” Cason also “raised the possibility” of a Bureau of Reclamation “takeover” of the plant, although he added that he didn’t know if the Bureau of Reclamation “‘actually ha[d] the capacity to run a plant like that.'” [Benjamin Storrow, “Interior offers to help coal plant by softening regulations,” ClimateWire, 03/02/17]

The Navajo Generation Station is “one of the nation’s largest generators of carbon dioxide, an earth-warming greenhouse gas.” NGS was “third on a 2014 Environmental Protection Agency list of major carbon-emitting facilities” and “activists have long complained about the health impacts of the emissions.” [James Rainey, “Coal-burning Navajo Power Plant Nears Two-Year Lease Extension,” NBC News, 05/16/17, and Brady Dennis and Steven Mufson, “The West’s largest coal-fired power plant is closing. Not even Trump can save it.Washington Post, 02/14/17]

In June 2017, the “Navajo Nation Council voted to keep the Navajo Generating Station open until 2019 then work with its owner to shut it down.” [Laurel Morales, “Navajo Generating Station To Operate Until 2019,” Fronteras, 06/27/17]

James Cason has published at least two rules in the Federal Register in recent months. On May 11, 2017, he announced the public comment period for the “Review of Certain National Monuments Established Since 1996” in the Federal Register. On June 22, 2017, he published a notice asking for public input on how the Interior Department could “improve implementation of regulatory reform initiatives and policies and identify regulations for repeal, replacement, or modification.”

James Cason, on May 11, 2017, published the “Review of Certain National Monuments Established Since 1996; Notice of Opportunity for Public Comment” in the Federal Register. The notice says that Cason is a “Special Assistant, Delegated the Functions, Duties, and Responsibilities of the Deputy Secretary.” [“Review of Certain National Monuments Established Since 1996; Notice of Opportunity for Public Comment,” Regulations.gov, 05/11/17]

James Cason, on June 22, 2017, published another rule in the Federal Register. The proposed rule “‘request[ed] public input on how the Department of the Interior (Interior) can improve implementation of regulatory reform initiatives and policies and identify regulations for repeal, replacement, or modification'” and “‘also provides an overview of Interior’s approach for implementing the regulatory reform initiative to alleviate unnecessary burdens placed on the American people, which was established by President Trump in Executive Order (E.O.) 13777, ‘”Enforcing the Regulatory Reform Agenda.”‘” [Office of the Secretary Issues Proposed Rule Regulatory Reform, US Fed News, 06/23/17]

Even though he published a rule asking for public comment on the Bears Ears National Monument, after meeting with James Cason for four hours in May 2017, supporters of the Bears Ears monument got “‘no sense that'” the Trump administration understood the Bears Ears proposal.

After a four-hour meeting with James Cason on May 25, 2017, Utah Dine Bikeyah executive director Gavin Noyes said there was “‘no sense that they (Cason and the administration) really have an understanding of where these proposals came from or why.'” Noyes also noted “that Cason had not read the tribes’ 2015 proposal for the monument when they met.” [Jack Fitzpatrick, “Utahns Unsure What to Expect From Interior on National Monument,” Morning Consult, 06/07/17, and Department of the Interior, Press Release, 07/11/17]

The Interior Department is currently being sued by the Mohegan and Mashantucket Pequot tribes for refusing to make a decision on allowing the tribes to open a new casino in Connecticut. The delay in approving the new casino “stands to benefit politically connected gambling giant MGM Resorts International,” which is planning on opening a competing casino nearby.

In September 2017, the Interior Department refused to sign off on the Mohegan and Mashantucket Pequot tribes’ “plans for a third Connecticut casino.” While “federal law gives Interior just 45 days to issue a yes-or-no verdict after a tribe submits proposed changes to its gaming compact with a state… the department declined to make any decision in this case.” Acting Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs Michael Black wrote in a letter to the tribes that “approving or disapproving the amendment to their gaming compact was ‘premature and likely unnecessary,’ and said Interior had ‘insufficient information’ to make a decision.”

The Interior Department’s delay in approving the new casino “stands to benefit politically connected gambling giant MGM Resorts International.” “The proposed Connecticut casino would sit on non-tribal land just across the border from a billion-dollar casino that MGM is planning in Springfield, Mass.”

The Mohegan and Mashantucket Pequot tribes are now suing the Interior Department, in an attempt to “force approval of the contract.” The tribes are “arguing that the law does not allow Interior to refuse to render a verdict.” [Nick Juliano, “Zinke’s agency held up Indians’ casino after MGM lobbying,” Politico, 02/01/18]

MGM Resorts International has been using “Florida-based Trump fundraiser Brian Ballard” and former Interior Secretary Gale Norton as lobbyists. Ballard met with Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke as part of a “social visit” in August 2017. Gale Norton, who, as George W. Bush’s Interior Secretary was current Interior Associate Deputy Secretary James Cason’s former boss, recently got Cason a gig as a keynote speaker at the Colorado Oil & Gas Association’s Annual Energy Summit in Denver in August 2017.

On March 02, 2017, “Florida-based Trump fundraiser Brian Ballard” registered as lobbyist for MGM Resorts International. On August 29, 2017, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke “invited several lobbyists for MGM to join him and other guests for a social visit on his office balcony, which overlooks the National Mall.” [Ballard Partners Lobbying Registration, United States Senate Lobbying Disclosure Act Database, 03/02/17; Nick Juliano, “Zinke’s agency held up Indians’ casino after MGM lobbying,” Politico, 02/01/18]

On October 25, 2017, Former Interior Secretary Gale Norton registered as a lobbyist for MGM Resorts International. The specific lobbying issues listed on her registration are “Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan Connecticut gaming amendments.” [Norton Regulatory Strategies Lobbying Registration, United States Senate Lobbying Disclosure Act Database, 10/25/17]

When Interior Associate Deputy Secretary James Cason worked at George W. Bush’s Interior Department, Gale Norton, as Secretary of the Interior, was his boss. Cason has been involved at tribal issues while at Secretary Ryan Zinke’s Interior Department. On May 12, Cason sent a “technical guidance letter to the tribes” acknowledging “that the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act provides for a 45-day review period for compact amendments and that the department may disapprove them only for violating the act, other federal laws or trust obligations to the tribes.” This interpretation would seem to indicate that, in May, Interior had “seemed inclined to agree with the tribes’ interpretation of the law.” [Adam Federman, “The Plot to Loot America’s Wilderness,” The Nation, 11/16/17; Nick Juliano, “Zinke’s agency held up Indians’ casino after MGM lobbying,” Politico, 02/01/18]

Sometime prior to August 14, 2017 Gale Norton contacted James Cason about the “opportunity” to attend a Colorado Oil & Gas Association’s 29th Annual Energy Summit in Denver, Colorado on August 23, 2017.

On August 14, 2017, “on the recommendation” of Gale Norton, Colorado Oil & Gas Association sent James Cason received a formal invitation to attend the summit. Rachel McNerney, COGA’s Programs & Administrative Coordinator, said that COGA would be “thrilled” to have Associate Deputy Secretary Cason participate. COGA cced Gale Norton, using her gmail address, on Cason’s invitation. [OS-2017-001063 (Sage Grouse Comms from Industry), Page 425]

James Cason “spoke alongside Gale Norton” at the event. According to the agenda Norton and Cason participated in moderated discussion together at COGA’s keynote luncheon on August 23, 2017. [OS-2017-001063 (Sage Grouse Comms from Industry), Page 295; Adam Federman, “The Plot to Loot America’s Wilderness,” The Nation, 11/16/17]

James Cason previously worked at consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton. On November 30, 2017, Booz Allen Hamilton received a $63,072 contract from the Interior Department.

From 2010 to 2012, before he started at his current position at Interior, James Cason worked as “a Senior Member of the Energy, Transportation and Environment Team” at Booz Allen Hamilton. [Department of Interior, FOIA Response, 08/24/17, “James Cason,” Bloomberg, accessed 12/18/17, and Interior Department, Press Release, 05/26/17]

On November 30, 2017, Booz Allen Hamilton received a $63,072 contract from the Interior Department for a National Fire Plan Operations Reporting System. The Interior Department awarded this contract after a full and open competition, but Booz Allen Hamilton’s offer was the only offer Interior received for this contract. [“$63,072 Federal Contract Awarded to Booz Allen Hamilton,” Targeted News Service, 12/03/17, and “BOOZ ALLEN HAMILTON INC 140D7018F0020,” USA Spending, accessed 12/07/17]

In 2016,  James Cason “earned $50,000 in less than five months” for “consulting” services he provided to the Quapaw Tribe of Oklahoma. In June 2017, at the National Congress of American Indians Mid-Year Conference, Cason “said Quapaw Chairman John Berrey was working with an group of fellow leaders about ways in which tribes could exercise more control of their own lands,” and encouraged other tribal leaders to contact Berrey with ideas. In August 2017, Chairman Berrey had a video call with Interior Deputy Secretary David Bernhardt. There is no indication of what the call was about.

In 2016, the Quapaw Tribe of Oklahoma hired James Cason “as an ‘independent contractor.'” “For his ‘consulting’ work,” Cason “earned $50,000 in less than five months but didn’t provide additional information about the extent of his ‘research’ for the tribe.”

In June 2017, at the National Congress of American Mid Year Conference and Marketplace Connecticut,” James Cason “said Quapaw Chairman John Berrey was working with an group of fellow leaders about ways in which tribes could exercise more control of their own lands. Though the group appears to be ad-hoc in nature, Cason urged others to contact Berrey with ideas and ‘help us figure out a way that we can be more responsive.'” [“Quapaw Tribe paid $50,000 to senior Trump administration official for ‘research,'” Indianz.com, 12/15/17, and 2017 Agenda In Brief, NCAI, accessed 01/23/18]

On Thursday, August 24, 2017, John Berrey had a video call with Interior Deputy Secretary David Bernhardt. There is no indication of what the video call was about. According to Bernhardt’s calendar, the only other person in the meeting was Gareth Rees, who appears to be one of Bernhardt’s schedulers. [David Bernhardt Calendar, Department of Interior, 08/17]

James Cason has been described both as the “Associate Deputy Secretary” and “Acting Deputy Secretary” of the Interior Department. Cason also signed a letter as the “Delegated Authority of the Deputy Secretary.”

James Cason wrote a letter to the executive director of the National Congress of American Indians which he signed “James Cason, Delegated Authority of the Deputy Secretary.” [James Cason to Jacqueline Pata, United States Department of the Interior, 05/05/17]

James Cason describes himself as the “Associate Deputy Secretary at U.S. Department of the Interior” on LinkedIn. [LinkedIn Profile for James Cason, accessed 07/25/17]

Financials

Financial Disclosure

Department of the Interior Salary: $179,700

[James Cason, ProPublica’s TrumpTown, 03/13/18]

Other Information

James Cason has said he values the outdoors because he enjoys “bunnies and the deer and the trees and all that stuff.”

James Cason said he “value[s] and treasure[s]” outdoor experiences because he enjoys “just being with nature.” He explained, “I think there’s something that kind of reconstructs your sense of soul when you’re out with nature and you see the bugs and the bunnies and the deer and the trees and all that stuff.” [“James Cason Addresses Partners Outdoors 2017,” Fun Outdoors on YouTube, accessed 07/25/17, (16:40)]

James Cason said he saw Iranians camp on highway medians on the weekends because no land had been set aside for recreation in Iran.

James Cason said he worked on “a construction project in the country of Iran” during the late 1970s. Cason claimed America is great because Iranians camp on highway medians on the weekend because nobody set aside land for outdoor recreation in Iran. [“James Cason Addresses Partners Outdoors 2017,” Fun Outdoors on YouTube, accessed 07/25/17, (17:20)]