We all expected that Trump’s cabinet would mean trouble for many of the things we care about, from clean energy and healthy communities to our very democracy itself. But his chosen nominees are worse than we could have imagined. These individuals, responsible for the policies and decisions that affect the lives and well-being of all Americans, have a combined net worth of over $13 billion so far – that’s five times the net worth of President Obama’s cabinet, and more wealth than a third of American households. As you might expect, their ties to corporations run deep, and those ties are reflected in their positions and past actions. Here’s what you should know about what Trump’s nominees mean for our food, water, environment and democracy – and how you can oppose their confirmations:
Confirmed for: EPA Administrator
Why you should worry: Pruitt has bragged about suing the EPA multiple times, has often decried its decisions, and now he’s on deck to run it. His troubling history includes:
- He opposed attempts to regulate fracking on federal lands.
- He condemned the EPA’s attempts to study fracking’s impact on drinking water as politically motivated.
- He’s pushed the interests of industrial agriculture in Oklahoma, including a deregulatory “right to farm” measure.
Corporate ties: He’s a member of ALEC, and has taken about $300,000 in campaign contributions from the fossil fuel industry. Fossil fuel CEO Harold Hamm chaired his 2014 re-election campaign.
Notable quote: “It should come as no surprise that I am working diligently with Oklahoma energy companies […] to fight the unlawful overreach of the EPA and other federal agencies.”
Confirmed for: Secretary of State
Why you should worry: His tenure at Exxon gives us insight into how he’d behave as Secretary of State:
- He’s presided over major deals with Russia to expand oil and gas development.
- Exxon targeted Germany, a nation with a strong commitment to renewables and energy efficiency, for natural gas drilling and fracking.
- Under Tillerson’s leadership, Exxon continued to fund groups that promoted climate denial and spread misinformation about the threat of climate change.
Corporate ties: He was the CEO of ExxonMobil from 2006 until January 2017. He owns Exxon shares worth $151 million.
Notable fact: Tillerson once sued to keep water towers for a fracking project out of his own backyard.
Confirmed for: Secretary of Energy
Why you should worry: During his first presidential bid, Perry said in a debate that he would eliminate the Department of Energy – and now he’s slated to run it. Based on his history and corporate connections, we expect him to promote fossil fuels and fracking at a time when we urgently need to shift to renewable energy.
Corporate ties: Perry is a former board member of Energy Transfer Partners (he resigned December 31, 2016), the company behind the Dakota Access Pipeline. He also used to sit on the board of Sunoco Logistics Partners (also resigning December 31, 2016), which is trying to acquire Energy Transfer Partners for $21.3 billion. He’s also received $14 million in oil and gas contributions to his lieutenant governor, governor and presidential campaigns.
Notable quote: Perry supports fracking: “We can have this conversation but you cannot show me one place, not one where there is a proven pollution of groundwater by hydraulic fracking.”
Confirmed for: Secretary of the Interior
Why you should worry: Zinke has voted over and over against protecting our public lands from the fossil fuel industry:
- He opposed regulation of drilling and fracking on federal and American Indian lands.
- He voted to lift the 40-year ban on crude oil exports.
- He co-sponsored the Natural Gas Pipeline Permitting Reform Act, a bill to speed up approval for pipelines.
- He praised the EPA when it wrongfully reported in a draft study that fracking does not pose widespread threats to groundwater. That study has since been finalized, acknowledging that fracking can, and does, contaminate drinking water.
Corporate ties: He’s taken hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from the oil and gas industry.
Confirmed for: Secretary of Agriculture
Why you should worry: Perdue has a history of supporting Big Ag, and when he was governor of Georgia, he signed a law that blocks local governments from regulating crop production or animal husbandry. As secretary, we expect more of the same. He could roll back USDA’s fair farm rules, designed to help level the playing field for independent farmers, and could gut agriculture regulations so that agribusiness can keep prioritizing their profits above food safety, farmer livelihoods, worker safety and the environment.
Corporate ties: The company he started after his term as governor is a global food trade corporation, which poses a serious conflict of interest for a role that has Perdue overseeing food imports and exports. When he was governor, he appointed three people to government positions who are now partners in his company.
Notable fact: As Governor, Perdue famously prayed for rain as a solution to drought, but he’s a climate skeptic who promoted factory farms and worked to ease regulations on the oil and natural gas industries.
Confirmed for: Secretary of Health and Human Services
Why you should worry: Rep. Price (R-GA) has consistently voted against protecting the safety of our food, water and environment:
- He voted to approve the disastrous Keystone XL pipeline.
- He voted to allow the export of oil from the United States.
- He voted to nullify the Clean Power Plan and the Clean Water Rule.
- He voted to block workable state laws to provide consumers with labeling on genetically engineered foods.
- He voted to repeal popular country of origin labeling for meat.
- He voted against the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act.
He has also cast doubt on the science behind global climate change.
Corporate ties: Price is facing tough questions about his purchase of stock from a medical device company just days before introducing legislation that would benefit the company, as well as the company’s contribution to his re-election campaign.
Notable fact: Price has a lifetime score of five percent and a score of zero for 2015 from the League of Conservation Voters.
Confirmed for: Attorney General
Why you should worry: In 1986, his appointment to a federal judgeship was derailed because he was deemed too racist. He has called organizations that protect our civil rights “un-American,” and he has opposed the Voting Rights Act, landmark legislation that prohibits racial discrimination in voting. (This year’s election was the first in 50 years without the full protections of the Act.)
On the environment, his record is also troubling. As Senator, he helped introduce the first legislation to exempt fracking from regulations protecting our drinking water (co-sponsoring the bill with infamous climate change denier, James Inhofe). He also turned a deaf ear to his own constituents that said their water had been contaminated by fracking.
Notable quote: “Carbon pollution is CO2, and that’s really not a pollutant; that’s a plant food, and it doesn’t harm anybody except that it might include temperature increases.”
Nominated for: Secretary of Labor Victory! Nomination Withdrawn
Why you should worry: Puzder has a terrible record on workers’ rights. He opposes the minimum wage and has a history of putting profits above workers’ well-being. We expect him to weaken the efficacy of OSHA, thereby threatening workers and the overall safety of our food.
Corporate ties: This fast food mogul is CEO of Hardees and Carl’s Jr.
Confirmed for: Secretary of Labor
Why you should worry: Acosta’s career is full of scandals. During his tenure at the Department of Justice, investigators said his lax oversight allowed politicized hiring to favor conservatives. When he was the head of the Civil Rights Division he sent a letter to the judge in an Ohio case about efforts to suppress African-American voters that was characterized as “cheerleading” for Republicans in a key swing state during a presidential election year.
Corporate ties: He used to practice law at Kirkland and Ellis, representing employers in disputes with their employees. As Secretary of Labor, we’re skeptical whether he’d be strong in the reversed role, defending employees against unfair practices.
Notable fact: In what should have been a “slam-dunk” case, many legal experts think that Acosta caved under pressure by going easy on Jeffrey E. Epstein in a case on underage sex trafficking. As Terry O’Neill, president of the National Organization for Women, puts it: “If he’s so weak-kneed on that, what’s he going to do when the high-powered lawyers say, ‘You’ve got to help us break these unions?’ What’s he going to do when the high-powered lawyers go after him and say, ‘You’ve got to stop these women suing for sexual harassment?’”
Here’s one more way to oppose Trump’s cabinet of oil and gas-friendly, industrial ag-promoting billionaires: chip in to help us fight their confirmations and Trump’s corporate agenda.