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Former Special Assistant to the Secretary of the Interior

Melissa Simpson was serving as a special assistant to the Secretary of the Interior in the beginning months of 2017. As of July 2017, she appears to have left the Interior Department and to be working as Senior Advisor of the Bureau of Energy Resources at the State Department.

Melissa Simpson began her career working for the federal government and left to work on behalf of oil and gas interests. After working in the George W. Bush Administration’s Agriculture and Interior Departments, Simpson left to work at Pac/West, a communications firm. Her clients included the Western Energy Alliance, a trade group for the oil and natural gas industry, who hired Simpson “to counter sportsmen’s protests to oil and gas development on public lands.”

In 2011, Simpson started working for Safari Club International (SCI) where she “spearheaded” SCI’s “strategic partnership” with the oil and gas industry. Most recently, Simpson was the president of a firm that provides “strategic advocacy, government relations, public affairs, and tactical communication services focusing on the energy industry.”

Sources: [Department of the Interior, FOIA Response, 06/07/17, Trump 2016 General Election Campaign Organization Colorado Page, p2016.org, accessed 02/13/17, Matt Lee-Ashley, “Oil and Gas Industry Investments in the National Rifle Association and Safari Club International: Reshaping American Energy, Land, and Wildlife Policy,” Center for American Progress, 04/14, and Beatty & Wozniak, “Beatty & Wozniak, P.C. Announces Strategic Affiliation with Stakeholder Strategies’ President, Melissa Simpson,” 04/13/15, and Specialty Graphic Imaging Association, Press Release, 07/13/17]

Special Interests

Western Energy Alliance (Resource Development on Public Lands)

The Independent Petroleum Association of the Mountain States, later renamed the Western Energy Alliance, was one of Simpson's clients when she worked at Pac/West. IPAMS/WEA is a trade group that represents oil and gas producers in Western states.

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Safari Club International (Resource Development on Public Lands)

Simpson was the Director of Government Affairs at SCI, where she spearheaded their strategic partnership with the oil and gas industry.

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North Dakota Petroleum Council (Resource Development on Public Lands)

Simpson spoke at a forum in Bismarck, ND sponsored by the North Dakota Petroleum Council, an organization that provides government relations support to oil and gas companies in North Dakota, South Dakota, and the Rocky Mountain Region.

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Stakeholder Strategies (Resource Development on Public Lands)

Simpson was the President of Stakeholder Strategies, a company that provided strategic advocacy, government relations, public affairs, and tactical communication services focusing on the energy industry.

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Beatty & Wozniak (Resource Development on Public Lands)

While at Stakeholder Strategies, Simpson had a strategic affiliation with energy law firm Beatty & Wozniak, which focused on energy litigation, title work, environmental and regulatory issues and corporate transactions.

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Oklahoma Independent Petroleum Association (Resource Development on Public Lands)

Simpson is married to Tim Wigley, who is the Executive Vice President of the Oklahoma Independent Petroleum Association, an industry advocacy group and Oklahoma's largest oil and natural gas association.

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Congressional Sportsmen's Foundation (Resource Development on Public Lands)

Simpson served on the Board of CSF, which works to advance hunting, angling and recreational shooting. CSF has received funding from industry interests including ExxonMobil, America's Natural Gas Alliance, Shell, and Peabody Energy.

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Background Information

Previous Employers

In 2007, Melissa Simpson testified that George W. Bush’s Department of Agriculture was “committed” to transferring federal land in the Tongass National Forest to the Sealaska Corporation.

The Sealaska Corporation now earns millions via oil ventures with Arctic Slope Regional Corporation and mining ventures with the NANA regional corporation, and in 2013, started selling “timber for construction.”

On November 14, 2007, when she was the Deputy Under Secretary in the Department of Agriculture, Melissa Simpson testified before the House Natural Resources Committee on H.R. 3560, the Southeast Alaska Native Land Entitlement Finalization Act. In her testimony, Simpson said that the Department of Agriculture “recognize[d] and support[ed] the need to finish existing statutory land transfer obligations to Native Corporations in Alaska, including Sealaska Corporation,” and that the department was “committed to that goal.”

After the land transfer from Tongass National Forest to the Sealaska Corporation, a business conglomerate founded by three Native American tribes, was completed in 2015, “68,000 acres of the transferred land” became “available for logging” and “other economic opportunities for Southeast Alaska and the corporation’s more than 22,000 shareholders.” Sealaska, the “largest private landowner in Southeast Alaska,” makes money off “oil earnings by the Arctic Slope Regional Corporation” and from “zinc-mining profits by the NANA regional corporation.” Sealaska also “company sells timber for construction.”

[“Melissa Simpson Testimony on H.R. 3560,” U.S. House Committee on Natural Resources, 11/14/07, Stephanie Shor, “Quiet Ceremony Concludes Sealaska land transfer after years of work,” Juneau Empire, 03/07/15, “Who We Are,” Sealaska, accessed 02/22/17, “Sealaska Names Board Youth Advisor,” Indian Country Today Media Network, 06/29/13, Ed Schoefeld, “Sealaska sending $16 million to shareholders,” KCAW, 04/03/16, and Molly Dischner, “Alaska Native regional corporation round-up,” Alaska Journal of Commerce, 05/23/13]

Melissa Simpson, from 2009 to 2011, was Vice President of Policy and Regulatory Affairs at Pac/West Communications, “one of the largest government affairs firms in the Northwest.” 

At Pac/West, one of her clients was the Independent Petroleum Association of the Mountain States (IPAMS), which represents “oil and gas producers in western United States.” IPAMS, now named Western Energy Alliance, hired Simpson to “counter sportsmen’s protests to oil and gas development on public lands.”

Melissa Simpson, from 2009 to 2011, worked as the Vice President of Policy and Regulatory Affairs in the Washington D.C. office of Pac/West Communications.

[LinkedIn Profile for Melissa Simpson, accessed 02/02/17, “Pac/West Hires Simpson as New VP of Policy and Regulatory Affairs,” Bulldog Reporter, 02/05/09, and Trump 2016 General Election Campaign Organization Colorado Page, p2016.org, accessed 02/13/17]

Pac/West Communications, an Oregon-based communications consulting firm, “is one of the largest government affairs firms in the Northwest.” Pac/West’s “fingerprints are on nearly every major piece of legislation that has passed into law over the past three decades” in Oregon.

[Pac/West, “Govt. Affairs/ Lobbying,” accessed 02/02/17, and “Pac/West adds D.C. adviser,” Portland Business Journal, 03/19/14]

One of Melissa Simpson’s clients at Pac/West was IPAMS, a “trade group representing oil and gas producers in western United States.” IPAMS was later renamed Western Energy Alliance in 2010.

[Matt Lee-Ashley, “Oil and Gas Industry Investments in the National Rifle Association and Safari Club International: Reshaping American Energy, Land, and Wildlife Policy,” Center for American Progress, 04/14 and Western Energy Alliance, Press Release, 07/12/10]

Melissa Simpson was contracted by the Western Energy Alliance “to counter sportsmen’s protests to oil and gas development on public lands from groups including” the Teddy Roosevelt Conservation Partnership.

[Phil Taylor, “Advocacy: Sportsmen’s, gun rights groups criticized for ties to oil and gas,” Greenwire, 04/29/14]

Her tasks for IPAMS included “advocating on behalf of industry during Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies (AFWA) meetings, improving communication with state fish and wildlife agencies through an organized industry effort, and facilitating a dialog to mutually share information with the goal of predevelopment planning and monitoring.”

These efforts served “as a tool to address wildlife protests from the Teddy Roosevelt Conservation Partnership (TRCP) and other sportsmen’s groups.” Simpson and IPAMS staff “met with companies that have agreed to fund and participate” in these efforts.

[IPAMS, Meeting Minutes, 05/01/09]

Melissa Simpson, from 2011 to 2015, was the Director of Government Affairs and Science-Based Conservation at Safari Club International (SCI), where she “spearheaded” their “strategic partnership” with the oil and gas industry.

At SCI, Simpson regularly supported anti-environmental legislation, including bills to “peel back existing conservation provisions on tens of millions of acres,” “rewrite the Wilderness Act, National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the National Wildlife Refuge System Administration Act,” and legislation to allow recreational shooting on national monument land. Simpson also spoke at petroleum association forums and a congressional reception sponsored by major oil companies.

While at SCI, she “spearheaded” SCI’s “strategic partnership” with the oil and gas industry. Simpson has been described as a “former oil and gas cartel lobbyist, turned SCI lobbyist.”

[Trump 2016 General Election Campaign Organization Colorado Page, p2016.org, accessed 02/13/17, Safari Club International, “Missions & Involvement,” accessed 02/13/17, Matt Lee-Ashley, “Oil and Gas Industry Investments in the National Rifle Association and Safari Club International: Reshaping American Energy, Land, and Wildlife Policy,” Center for American Progress, 04/14, and Rich Landers, “House approves Sportsmen’s Heritage Act; not all sportsmen approve,” Spokesman Review, 04/17/12]

In 2011, Melissa Simpson testified before the House Committee on Natural Resources in support of H.R. 1581, the Wilderness and Roadless Area Release Act, which was legislation to “peel back existing conservation provisions on tens of millions of acres of roadless areas in national forests across the West.”

[House Committee on Natural Resources, Melissa Simpson Testimony, 07/26/11, and Ben Long, “Beware of Wolves” Tucson Weekly, 09/29/11]

In 2011, Melissa Simpson described H.R. 2834, the Recreational Fishing and Hunting Heritage and Opportunities Act, as a “‘vital'” piece of legislation. The bill, which was “strongly supported” by SCI, would “rewrite the Wilderness Act, National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the National Wildlife Refuge System Administration Act, excusing the Refuge System from compliance with NEPA for all decisions related to hunting and fishing.”

[Dale Sunderlin, “Young hunters score big,” Star Beacon, 11/28/11 and Elizabeth Miller, “Hunting for conservation: Legislation aims for hunting access, but would destroy wildlife populations,” Boulder Weekly, 10/11/12]

Melissa Simpson, in 2012, said SCI supported efforts pass H.R. 4089, the Sportsmen’s Heritage Act of 2012. She said that “important language” in the bill would require “federal agencies to facilitate hunting, fishing and target shooting opportunities on public lands and will help guarantee the protection of our outdoor heritage for generations to come.”

The bill required “hunting and recreational shooting and fishing to be recognized activities on all Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management lands,” and it would protect “recreational shooting on National Monuments.” Ben Lamb, of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, called the bill Simpson’s “brain child.”

[“Broun Supports Bill to Protect Hunters, Anglers, and Wildlife Broun Language Included in the Sportsmen’s Heritage Act of 2012, Backed by Safari Club International and Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation,” States News Service, 04/17/12, Talasi Brooks and Kevin Proescholdt, “Safari Club and the NRA aim to gut wilderness,” High Country News, 06/21/12, and Rich Landers, “House approves Sportsmen’s Heritage Act; not all sportsmen approve,” Spokesman-Review, 04/17/12]

In 2013, Melissa Simpson testified in support of H.R. 1825, the Recreational Fishing and Hunting Heritage and Opportunities Act. This legislation aimed to “ensure that federal agencies provide ample opportunities to hunt, fish and target shoot on federal lands,” and it contained “controversial language” that “could allow temporary roads, motorized equipment, mountain bikes or game carts, all of which are generally prohibited by the Wilderness Act to keep lands in their primitive state.”

[Phil Taylor, “Wilderness, NEPA issues in House bill lead sportsmen’s group to push Senate measure,” Environment & Energy Daily, 05/09/13]

In 2014, speaking on behalf of SCI, Simpson supported H.R. 3962, the Making Public Lands Public Access Act. This legislation would use “federal Land and Water Conservation Fund dollars to pay for easements or right-of-way purchases across private land that surround public property.” Simpson said that the legislation “takes a decisive step to open millions of acres for recreation.”

[“Daines Introduces Bill to Improve Montana Sportsmen’s Access to Public Lands,” Targeted News Service, 01/30/14 and Rob Chaney, “Daines introduces bill on open access to public lands,” Missoulian, 01/30/14]

In 2012, Melissa Simpson was a scheduled speaker at a forum in Bismarck, ND, that was sponsored by the North Dakota Petroleum Council. “North Dakota sporting groups and oil company representatives” attended the event to discuss “energy development and habitat and wildlife issues.”

[“Sporting groups, oil industry forum March 6,” New Town News, 02/24/12]

In 2013, Melissa Simpson “spoke on the importance of advancing sportsmen’s priorities in the 113th Congress” at the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation’s August Recess Shoot-Out in Glenn Dale, MD. The “Title Sponsors of the 2013 August Recess Shoot-Out” were “Alpha Natural Resources, ATK, ExxonMobil Corporation, and Natural Resource Results,” and BP America Inc. was one of the hosts of the event. Simpson is also on the Board of Directors of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation.

[“August Recess Shoot-Out Draws Hundreds to Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation Event,” Targeted News Service, 08/07/13]

Melissa Simpson, since 2015, has been the president of Stakeholder Strategies, which provides “strategic advocacy, government relations, public affairs, and tactical communication services focusing on the energy industry.” Simpson also has a “strategic affiliation” with energy law firm Beatty & Wozniak.

Stakeholder Strategies LLC is based in Denver, CO, and “specializes in developing diverse coalitions and public support for energy, wildlife and natural resources projects to create certainty in the regulatory process and to deliver business and policy solutions to clients.

The firm engages in issues and projects throughout the West (Wyoming, North Dakota, New Mexico, Utah, Nevada and Colorado), as well as Texas, the Mid-Continent region and Northeast, providing strategic advocacy, government relations, public affairs, and tactical communication services focusing on the energy industry.”

[Trump 2016 General Election Campaign Organization Colorado Page, p2016.org, accessed 02/13/17 and Beatty & Wozniak, “Beatty & Wozniak, P.C. Announces Strategic Affiliation with Stakeholder Strategies’ President, Melissa Simpson,” 04/13/15]

Energy law firm Beatty & Wozniak, in 2015, announced it was launching a “strategic affiliation with Stakeholder Strategies’ President, Melissa Simpson.”

In their announcement, Beatty & Wozniak said that Simpson “brings tremendous experience” to the firm, and that she specializes “in natural resource issues, particularly wildlife, energy, agricultural and western policy matters at the community, local, regional, state, and federal levels.” Beatty & Wozniak focused on “energy litigation, title work, environmental and regulatory issues and corporate transactions.”

[Beatty & Wozniak, “Beatty & Wozniak, P.C. Announces Strategic Affiliation with Stakeholder Strategies’ President, Melissa Simpson,” 04/13/15 and Beatty & Wozniak, “Our Focus,” accessed 02/13/17]

Political Connections

Melissa Simpson has donated more than $4,200 to conservative causes and Republican candidates across the country, including Cory Gardner, Mitt Romney, and Rob Bishop.

Since 2009, Melissa Simpson has donated more than $4,200 to conservative candidates and causes across the country, including Ryan Frazier, Cory Gardner, Mitt Romney, and Rob Bishop.

[CQ Political Moneyline search for Melissa Simpson, accessed 02/02/17]

Financials

Department of the Interior salary: $161,900

[Melissa M. Simpson, ProPublica’s Trump Town, accessed 03/15/18]

Other Information

Melissa Simpson, in 2012, coauthored an op-ed with a Western Energy Alliance (WEA) executive arguing against listing the sage grouse as threatened or endangered, threatening it “would have enormous economic… consequences in western communities.” WEA is a trade group for the oil and natural gas industry.

In 2012 Melissa Simpson co-wrote an editorial with Dustin Van Liew, Executive Director of the Public Lands Council, and Spencer Kimball, Manager of Government Affairs at the Western Energy Alliance. The editorial argued against listing the sage grouse as an endangered species, arguing that “a threatened or endangered listing would have enormous economic and social consequences in western communities.”

They proposed as an alternative “sensible state-level management strategies that are informed by local stakeholders.” The authors said that with a listing decision they feared “that BLM may end up piling on restrictions that actually undermine private conservation of habitat and unnecessarily restrict economic activities and job creation across the entire West.”

[Dustin Van Liew, Melissa Simpson, & Spencer Kimball, “FORUM: States should develop sage grouse conservation policies,” Daily Sentinel, 03/23/12, and “The Alliance,” Western Energy Alliance, accessed 02/13/17]

In 2016, Melissa Simpson was the “coalitions director for Trump’s Colorado campaign.”

[“Trump campaign fills top positions for Colorado push,” Denver Post, 08/08/16]

Melissa Simpson is married to Oklahoma Independent Petroleum Association Executive Vice President Tim Wigley.

In October 2016, Melissa Simpson married Tim Wigley, who by the end of that year, was the Executive Vice President of the Oklahoma Independent Petroleum Association. Before joining the Oklahoma Independent Petroleum Association, he was the President of the Western Energy Alliance.

[Facebook post by Pac/West Communications, accessed 02/24/17, and “OIPA names new executive vice president,” Oklahoma Independent Petroleum Association, 12/19/16]