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Nominee for Assistant Secretary of the Interior, Indian Affairs

Tara Sweeney has been nominated to be the Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs. “The mission of the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs is to oversee and protect more than 55 million acres of land held in trust by the United States for American Indian and Alaska Native tribes, and uphold the federal government’s statutory and treaty responsibilities to those communities.” If confirmed, Sweeney will act “as a liaison between 567 American Indian and Alaska Native tribes and the federal government and principally oversees the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Bureau of Indian Education. The Office of the Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs also is the focal point for policymaking regarding tribal nations.”

A Native Alaskan, Tara Sweeney has been intimately involved with the push to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling for decades. She began her career working at “the Washington, D.C., law firm of Van Ness Feldman,” where she “lobbied Congress to open the Arctic refuge to oil exploration.” Following that, she returned to Alaska, where she has led the charge to open ANWR as a lobbyist for the Arctic Slope Regional Corporation (ASRC), an Alaskan oil and coal organization. ASRC has already leased millions of acres of land to Anadarko, Chevron Texaco, and BP for oil drilling, including all of their land within ANWR, and is currently looking for a development company “to explore and develop its coal deposits located on its lands in the western Arctic.” Sweeney also sits on the board of Arctic Power, a group dedicated to getting federal “approval of oil and gas exploration and production” in ANWR, and whose members include the Alaska Oil & Gas Association.

Sources: [Department of the Interior, Press Release, 10/17/17, “Federal Position Descriptions,” Center for Presidential Transition, accessed 10/20/17, “New rural affairs adviser hopes to bridge divide,” Peninsula Clarion, 01/06/03, Search for Tara Sweeney, United States Senate Lobbying Disclosure Act Database, accessed 10/20/17, Arctic Slope Regional Corporation, Press Release, 10/17/17, [“Coal,” Arctic Slope Regional Corporation, accessed 10/20/17, “Oil,” Arctic Slope Regional Corporation, accessed 10/20/17, “Arctic Science as a Vehicle for STEM Education and Citizen Empowerment Speaker Biographies,” Arctic Research Consortium of the United States, accessed 10/20/17, and “About Us,” Arctic Power, accessed 10/20/17]

Special Interests

Arctic Slope Regional Corporation (Resource Development on Public Lands)

Sweeney worked for nearly 20 years for ASRC, which has leased millions of acres of land to Anadarko, Chevron Texaco, and BP, including all of their land within ANWR.

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Arctic Power (Resource Development on Public Lands)

Sweeney is on the board of Arctic Power, a group dedicated to opening up oil and gas exploration and production in ANWR. The board also includes members from the Alaska Oil & Gas Association.

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also connected to:

Arctic Economic Council (Resource Development on Public Lands)

Sweeney was the chair of the Arctic Economic Council, whose board is heavily influenced by oil companies and companies that profit off oil development.

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also connected to:

Background Information

Previous Employers

Arctic Slope Regional Corporation

Arctic Power

Arctic Economic Council

Van Ness Feldman

Additional Background on Employers of Note:

Tara Sweeney was a lobbyist for Arctic Slope Regional Corporation (ASRC), an Alaskan oil and coal organization. ASRC has already leased millions of acres of land to Anadarko, Chevron Texaco, and BP for oil drilling, including all of their land within ANWR, and is currently looking for a coal development company “to explore and develop its coal deposits located on its lands in the western Arctic.” Sweeney has worked at ARSC for nearly 20 years, and most recently, worked as executive vice president of external affairs.

Tara Sweeney was a registered lobbyist for Arctic Slope Regional Corp. in 2005, 2006, and 2007. [Search for Tara Sweeney, United States Senate Lobbying Disclosure Act Database, accessed 10/20/17, and “New rural affairs adviser hopes to bridge divide,” Peninsula Clarion, 01/06/03]

Tara Sweeney is “the executive vice president of external affairs for Arctic Slope Regional Corporation (ASRC),” and has worked there “for nearly 20 years in a variety of roles.” ASRC’s subsidiaries operate “in petroleum refining and marketing,” and “oilfield engineering, operations, maintenance, construction, fabrication, regulatory and permitting” for “oil and gas companies in Alaska, the Gulf of Mexico, the Russian Federation, and Canada.”

“Since 1996, Sweeney has been with Arctic Slope Regional Corp. and a subsidiary, Houston Contracting Co.-Alaska Ltd., working in labor relations, shareholder relations and government affairs, including lobbying for ANWR.”

“In 1998, ASRC entered into an agreement with Anadarko Petroleum Corporation, giving them exclusive exploratory access to 3.3 million acres of land controlled by ASRC. This agreement gives Anadarko, exploration rights to 2.3 million acres of ASRC land… In 2001 Anadarko exercised its option to take lands to lease with the leasing of 217 lease blocks covering over 1.1 million acres.”

ASRC, which leases all its land in the beautiful Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to Chevron Texaco and BP, boasts on its website that the ANWR “is thought to hold North America’s greatest potential for significant onshore oil and gas discoveries.” [White House, Press Release, 10/16/17, Arctic Slope Regional Corporation, Press Release, 10/17/17, “Company Overview of Arctic Slope Regional Corporation,” Bloomberg, accessed 10/20/17, “Oil,” Arctic Slope Regional Corporation, accessed 10/20/17, and “New rural affairs adviser hopes to bridge divide,” Peninsula Clarion, 01/06/03]

ASRC is currently looking for a “development company to explore and develop its coal deposits located on its lands in the western Arctic.” It boasts that “Alaska’s North Slope could be the world’s coal storehouse for the next century,” claiming that “four trillion tons of high quality bituminous and subbitumious coal,” or “one-ninth of the world’s known coal resource… are estimated to lie within the Northern Alaska Coal Province.” [“Coal,” Arctic Slope Regional Corporation, accessed 10/20/17]

Tara Sweeney sits on the board of Arctic Power, a group dedicated to getting federal “approval of oil and gas exploration and production” in ANWR. Arctic Power members also include the Alaska Oil & Gas Association and the Alaska Miners Association.

Tara Sweeney sits on the board of Arctic Power, a group dedicated to getting federal “approval of oil and gas exploration and production within the Coastal Plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.” The Alaska Oil & Gas Association, Alaska State Chamber of Commerce, and Alaska Miners Association are “represented on the Arctic Power board and through its membership.” [“Arctic Science as a Vehicle for STEM Education and Citizen Empowerment Speaker Biographies,” Arctic Research Consortium of the United States, accessed 10/20/17; and “About Us,” Arctic Power, accessed 10/20/17]

Tara Sweeney was the chair of the Arctic Economic Council, whose board is heavily influenced by oil companies and companies that profit off oil development.

Tara Sweeney “served as chair of the Arctic Economic Council from 2015-2017, and currently serves as one of the organization’s vice-chairs.” [“Tara Sweeney,” The Arctic Energy Summit, accessed 10/18/17]

The Arctic Economic Council has a heavy influence from oil companies and companies that profit off oil development. Of the four other Executive Committee members, two have deep oil ties:

Vice Chair Evgeniy Ambrosov is the COO of PAO Sovcomflot, “Russia’s largest shipping company and one of the world’s leading transporters of energy by sea.”

Vice Chair Erling Kvadsheim is the Director of international affairs for the Norwegian Oil and Gas Association, and has “spent his entire career in the oil and gas sector.” [“About Us,” Arctic Economic Council, accessed 10/20/17, and “Members,” Arctic Economic Council, accessed 10/20/17]

Tara Sweeney began her career at “the Washington, D.C., law firm of Van Ness Feldman” where she “lobbied Congress to open the Arctic refuge to oil exploration.”

Tara Sweeney began her career as “an intern with the Washington, D.C., law firm of Van Ness Feldman. In that position, she started working with Murkowski and his staff as she lobbied Congress to open the Arctic refuge to oil exploration.” [“New rural affairs adviser hopes to bridge divide,” Peninsula Clarion, 01/06/03]

Political Connections

Tara Sweeney co-chaired “Senator Dan Sullivan’s (R-AK) successful 2014 Senate campaign” and has donated nearly $6,000 to Senator Sullivan.

Tara Sweeney “served as co-chair for Senator Dan Sullivan’s (R-AK) successful 2014 Senate campaign.” [“Tara Sweeney,” The Arctic Energy Summit, accessed 10/20/17]

Tara Sweeney has donated $5,700 to Dan Sullivan:

  • $500 in December 2013
  • $1,500 in June 2014
  • $3,200 in September 2014 (total of two contributions)
  • $500 in August 2017

[Political Moneyline Search for Tara Sweeney, CQ, accessed 10/20/17, and Search for Tara Sweeney, Federal Election Commission, accessed 10/20/17]

Tara Sweeney has donated over $7,000 to Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK).

Tara Sweeney has donated $7,150 to Lisa Murkowski:

  • $500 in April 2009
  • $1,000 in March 2010
  • $900 in July 2010
  • $250 in June 2011
  • $1,000 in October 2011
  • $500 in August 2012
  • $500 in March 2013
  • $1,000 in February 2014 (total of two contributions)
  • $1,500 in June 2015 (total of two contributions)

[Political Moneyline Search for Tara Sweeney, CQ, accessed 10/20/17, and Search for Tara Sweeney, Federal Election Commission, accessed 10/20/17]

Tara Sweeney has donated to $5,600 Rep. Don Young (R-AK).

Tara Sweeney has donated $5,600 to Don Young:

  • $500 in October 2008
  • $500 in October 2009
  • $1,000 in July 2016
  • $700 in August 2016
  • $900 in September 2016 (total of two contributions)
  • $1,000 in February 2017
  • $1,000 in August 2017

[Political Moneyline Search for Tara Sweeney, CQ, accessed 10/20/17, and Search for Tara Sweeney, Federal Election Commission, accessed 10/20/17]

Current Activity

Tara Sweeney’s husband’s company is currently getting paid $15,000 a month to promote a natural gas project for the state of Alaska.  

Tara Sweeney is married to Kevin Sweeney, who worked for Senator Lisa Murkowski until September 2017. [“Kevin Sweeney,” Legistorm profile, accessed 10/20/17, “Tara MacLean Sweeney,” Legistorm profile, accessed 10/20/17]

Kevin Sweeney started consulting company Six-7 Strategies after he stopped working for Senator Murkowski. [“Spouse of Bureau of Indian Affairs nominee lands deal with ex-Trump aide,” Indianz, 04/09/18]

Black Rock Group, a consulting company owned by former Trump staffer Mike Dubke, has a contract to advise the Alaska Gasline Development Corporation on its communication strategy. Black Rock Group hired Sweeney’s firm, Six-7 Strategies, as a subcontractor to “focus more on in-state messaging” to promote the Alaska gasline project. [“Spouse of Bureau of Indian Affairs nominee lands deal with ex-Trump aide,” Indianz, 04/09/18, Liz Ruskin, “Gasline signs a DC insider,” Alaska Public Media, 04/02/18]

  • Potential Conflict of Interest

Tara Sweeney has worked nearly 20 years for Alaskan oil and coal company Arctic Slope Regional Corporation (ASRC). ASRC leases millions of acres of land to Anadarko, Chevron Texaco, and BP for oil drilling, including all of their land within ANWR, and is currently looking for a coal development company “to explore and develop its coal deposits located on its lands in the western Arctic.” Sweeney “has pushed for Congress to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to energy development.”

Tara Sweeney is “the executive vice president of external affairs for Arctic Slope Regional Corporation (ASRC),” and has worked there “for nearly 20 years in a variety of roles.” ASRC’s subsidiaries operate “in petroleum refining and marketing,” and “oilfield engineering, operations, maintenance, construction, fabrication, regulatory and permitting” for “oil and gas companies in Alaska, the Gulf of Mexico, the Russian Federation, and Canada.”

“In 1998, ASRC entered into an agreement with Anadarko Petroleum Corporation, giving them exclusive exploratory access to 3.3 million acres of land controlled by ASRC. This agreement gives Anadarko, exploration rights to 2.3 million acres of ASRC land… In 2001 Anadarko exercised its option to take lands to lease with the leasing of 217 lease blocks covering over 1.1 million acres.”

ASRC, which leases all its land in the beautiful Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to Chevron Texaco and BP, boasts on its website that the ANWR “is thought to hold North America’s greatest potential for significant onshore oil and gas discoveries.” [White House, Press Release, 10/16/17,  Arctic Slope Regional Corporation, Press Release, 10/17/17, “Company Overview of Arctic Slope Regional Corporation,” Bloomberg, accessed 10/20/17, and “Oil,” Arctic Slope Regional Corporation, accessed 10/20/17]

ASRC is currently looking for a “development company to explore and develop its coal deposits located on its lands in the western Arctic.” It boasts that “Alaska’s North Slope could be the world’s coal storehouse for the next century,” claiming approximately 2 billion tons of high rank bituminous coal, or “one-ninth of the world’s known coal resource… are estimated to lie within the Northern Alaska Coal Province.” [“Coal,” Arctic Slope Regional Corporation, accessed 10/20/17]

“Sweeney also has pushed for Congress to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to energy development. The Arctic Slope Regional Corporation owns subsurface rights and the Kaktovik Iñupiat Corporation owns surface rights to land within ANWR where development could occur.” [“Alaska Native executive Tara Sweeney named to top Bureau of Indian Affairs job,” Indianz.com, 10/17/17]

If approved, the “controversial Liberty project,” which has been opposed by environmental groups, would be a nine-acre gravel island that would be the “nation’s first oil production platform in federal Arctic waters.” The project is in the final stages of permitting at Interior. Ten percent of the Liberty project is owned by Arctic Slope Exploration, an Arctic Slope Regional Corporation subsidiary. 

Arctic Slope Regional Corporation is currently involved with “the controversial Liberty project in the Arctic.” The Liberty project “would involve construction of a nine-acre” artificial gravel island, “drilling wells to tap underwater oil reserves and building an underwater pipeline more than five miles long to send the oil to onshore facilities.” Development costs for the project “are estimated at $1 billion,” and Liberty is expected to “produce 50,000 to 80,000 barrels per day if it proceeds.” [“Hilcorp Only Bidder in Alaskan Lease Sale,” Maritime Executive, 06/21/17, Elizabeth Harball, “Industry, environmental groups speak out as Hilcorp paves the way for drilling in federal Arctic waters,” Alaska Public Media, 10/11/17, and Tim Bradner, “ConocoPhillips, Hilcorp moving ahead aggressively with production and exploration,” Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman, 11/18/17]

Environmental groups and opponents have criticized the project because oil “spills are inevitable and cannot be cleaned up in icy Arctic water.” If the project moves forward, it will be the first drilling in federal Arctic waters since 2015 and the “nation’s first oil production platform in federal Arctic waters.” [Dan Joling, “Company seeks to build island off Alaska for Arctic drilling,” Associated Press, 10/19/17, and Elizabeth Harball, “Industry, environmental groups speak out as Hilcorp paves the way for drilling in federal Arctic waters,” Alaska Public Media, 10/11/17

“A final decision” on the Liberty Project “is in the hands of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke.” The development of Liberty “is now in the final stages of permitting with the U.S. Bureau of Offshore Energy Management.” [Dan Joling, “Company seeks to build island off Alaska for Arctic drilling,” Associated Press, 10/19/17, and Tim Bradner, “ConocoPhillips, Hilcorp moving ahead aggressively with production and exploration,” Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman, 11/18/17]

Ten percent of the Liberty project is owned by Arctic Slope Exploration, which is a subsidiary of Arctic Slope Regional Corporation. The rest of Liberty is owned by Hilcorp and BP, who own 50 percent and 40 percent of the project, respectively. [Tim Bradner, “ConocoPhillips, Hilcorp moving ahead aggressively with production and exploration,” Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman, 11/18/17]

As the Executive Vice President of External Affairs for Arctic Slope Regional Corporation, Tara Sweeney’s company would stand to benefit if the Liberty Project goes forward. [“ASRC Management,” Arctic Slope Regional Corporation, accessed 12/12/17]

Financials

Financial Disclosure

Ethics Agreement 

[Office of Government Ethics]

Other Information

Tara Sweeney is a director of the non-profit Ted Stevens Foundation; BP has pledged $1 million to the foundation.

Tara Sweeney is a director of Alaska non-profit Ted Stevens Foundation, which took in a $1 million pledge from oil giant BP in order to “support the cataloguing of [Senator Ted] Stevens’ papers” that Stevens had “stored in the basement of the University of Alaska Fairbanks library.” [State of Alaska Department of Commerce, Community, and Economic Development Business Search for The Ted Stevens Foundation, accessed 10/20/17 and “Empire Editorial: Foundation plans to censor Ted Stevens’ legacy,” Juneau Empire, 07/21/15]

Tara Sweeney “represents the Iñuit Circumpolar Council,” an international NGO “representing approximately 160,000 Inuit of Alaska, Canada, Greenland, and Chukotka (Russia).”

Tara Sweeney “represents the Iñuit Circumpolar Council,” an “international non-government organization representing approximately 160,000 Inuit of Alaska, Canada, Greenland, and Chukotka (Russia).” [“Tara Sweeney,” The Arctic Energy Summit, accessed 10/20/17, and “About ICC,” Iñuit Circumpolar Council, accessed 10/20/17]