On January 17th 2018, CREW sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, Chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation John Thune, and Ranking Member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation Bill Nelson, requesting that Barry Myers, President Trump’s nominee to be Administrator of the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (“NOAA”), be required to amend his ethics agreement to include a recusal from participation in particular matters of general applicability that would affect the financial interests of AccuWeather.
Barry Myers is the chief executive officer of AccuWeather, a private weather forecasting company. In 2016, he reportedly earned more than $900,000 as the chief executive officer and holds stock in the company worth up to $50 million. Myers stated in his ethics agreement that he would divest all his stock and vested stock options in AccuWeather, and that he would resign from his position with AccuWeather and its affiliates. However, Mr. Myers’ other family members will continue to own and run the company; their ties will not be severed.
The potential conflict of interest arising from his family’s ownership interest in the company is evident from Myers’ own efforts to “persuade Congress to curb free initiatives” by the National Weather Service that “overlap with services provided by AccuWeather and other private weather firms”.
Under these circumstances, the recusal standard as listed in 5 U.S.C. § 2635.502 is not sufficient to curtail Myer’s involvement in particular matters of general applicability, such as rulemaking or other policy matters, that could affect the financial interests of AccuWeather. Therefore, CREW asserts that it is necessary and appropriate for the Senate to demand commitments of more comprehensive recusal in circumstances such as these where the minimum ethical standards are not adequate to address potential conflicts of interest that arise from family-owned companies.