Energy Policy Advocates Files Suit Against State Department Seeking “Special Climate Envoy” Kerry’s Ethics, Recusal Records

Other agencies have complied re lower-ranking officials, but not for Kerry, McCarthy

Today, the nonprofit governmental transparency group Energy Policy Advocates (EPA) filed an open records lawsuitagainst the United States Department of State seeking records including and relating to the required ethics clearance and recusal process for Special Presidential Envoy for Climate Change John Kerry, who is employed by or at minimum under the ethics supervision of the Department of State.

For example, “The State Department’s Ethics Office reviewed Special Presidential Envoy Kerry’s assets and investments upon his appointment to identify holdings that could pose a significant risk of a conflict of interest,” a State Department spokesperson wrote in a statement to ABC News. “Special Presidential Envoy Kerry agreed to divest the assets identified by the Ethics Office and has done so.” Soo Rin Kim, Lucien Bruggeman, and Libby Cathey, “New climate envoy John Kerry sold off energy holdings to avoid conflict of interest, disclosures show,” ABC News, April 30, 2021. However, recent reports suggest that Kerry maintains certain investments which could compromise his ability to deal in a straightforward and non-conflicted manner with one of his primary targets for diplomacy, the Peoples Republic of China. See, e.g., Sen. Marco Rubio, “Sen. Marco Rubio: It’s time to fire John Kerry, Biden’s ethically challenged climate czar,” Fox News, October 15, 2021.

To understand State’s unexplained claim of “unusual circumstances” in delaying a response to EPA’s request, EPA submitted a subsequent FOIA request to State requesting all correspondence from its [email protected] email account used for these purposes which includes the term “unusual circumstances”, dated over a six-week period from July 1, 2021, through August 12, 2021, inclusive. EPA noted “this is a simple request. It should cost little to no time or other resources to process, expeditiously.” State also has not responded to this.

As EPA noted in its request, “The requested information is of great public interest for its relevance to the Biden Administration’s ethics policies and procedures and compliance therewith.” EPA Executive Director Rob Schilling comments, “Special ‘Climate’ Envoy Kerry has apparently been given the role of de facto Secretary of State, pushing one of the biggest priorities of the Biden administration including offering wealth transfers and promises of economic constraints. Bureaucrats in Washington assure us that Kerry divested from investments that might have caused a conflict of interest for him in his new role as a US climate negotiator, but the State Department is sitting on the documents that will prove whether any conflict remains or how closely tied Kerry is to Chinese interests. We filed suit because we think the public deserves to know what he disclosed and the parameters of his recusals.”

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