Biden official dogged by ethics probe faces key Senate vote over taxpayer-funded salary: ‘Serious scandal’

FIRST ON FOX: A top Biden administration official overseeing a key part of the White House’s climate agenda, but who is facing a congressional ethics probe, may soon have her entire taxpayer-funded salary stripped.

The Senate is set to vote this week on an amendment introduced late last month by Sens. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, the ranking member of the Commerce Committee, and Cynthia Lummis, R-Wyo., which would defund Ann Carlson, who is serving as acting administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), a Transportation Department subagency. 

Carlson continues to lead NHTSA despite failing to clear the Senate confirmation process for the position earlier this year. The White House ultimately pulled her name for NHTSA administrator in May after Cruz led opposition to her nomination in response to ethics concerns related to her environmental activism and involvement in recruiting donors for a law firm leading high-profile climate litigation against oil companies.

“President Biden’s illegal appointment of Ann Carlson, who was effectively rejected by the Senate due to concerns about her extreme agenda and radical record, will only yield more mandates, higher costs for families and a less vibrant economy,” Cruz told Fox News Digital last month.


Cruz also penned a letter to President Biden, noting that the Federal Vacancies Reform Act prohibits “any person who has been nominated to fill any vacant office from performing that office’s duties in an acting capacity.” He argued that the provision and the fact that Carlson did not serve in the position of first assistant to former NHTSA Administrator Steven Cliff for more than 90 days before he resigned last year precludes her from her current position.

On Sunday, Republican Commerce Committee staff circulated a memo first obtained by Fox News Digital which highlighted the panel’s findings from an investigation they opened into Carlson.


According to the memo, while she was an environmental law professor at UCLA, Carlson was actively involved in and helped coordinate California law firm Sher Edling’s efforts to pursue novel litigation against fossil fuel companies. In recent years, Sher Edling has filed more than a dozen so-called climate nuisance lawsuits on behalf of cities, counties and several states, arguing the oil industry has been aware of climate change impacts for decades.

Fox News Digital previously reported that Carlson worked with Dan Emmett, the chairman of the Emmett Institute on Climate Change & the Environment to raise money from liberal non-profit organizations to fund Sher Edling’s work through an indirect dark money fund. The pair secured support from Terry Tamminen in his role as the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation’s CEO at the time.

According to tax filings, between 2017 and 2020, the secretive Collective Action Fund for Accountability, Resilience, and Adaptation (CAF) wired more than $5.2 million to Sher Edling. Then, in 2021 alone, CAF funneled another $3 million to the firm.

Carlson also reported in financial disclosures that she also provided pro bono consulting for Sher Edling on its litigation against oil companies.


The Senate GOP memo Sunday further concluded that unpaid UCLA Law School students from Carlson’s institute assisted Sher Edling by providing free legal services and that Carlson has “repeatedly concealed her work” with Sher Edling. The memo stated Sher Edling is similarly hiding the nature of Carlson’s work for the firm “despite repeated attempts from Congress to obtain information.”

“After reasonable investigation, it appears that Ms. Carlson’s consultations for Sher Edling ended by 2020 (when, as I understand it, she departed the University of California, Los Angeles School of Law for the U.S. Department of Transportation),” counsel for Sher Edling wrote in a letter obtained by Fox News Digital and sent to Cruz and House Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer, R-Ky., on Oct. 6.

“As to the nature of the consultations, it does not appear, after reasonable investigation, that Ms. Carlson consulted with Sher Edling on the merits of any specific climate damage and deception case; rather, her consultations were limited to the general legal issues implicated by those cases,” the letter continued.

The firm declined to provide further details about what Carlson’s work entailed, when she provided services to Sher Edling, or any benefits she received. It also declined to reveal in the letter how much funding it has received from non-profit entities and where the entirety of its funding stream has originated from. 

Meanwhile, in her role as acting NHTSA administrator, Carlson helped craft the agency’s most-aggressive-ever fuel economy standards that experts warned would substantially increase car prices and force electric vehicle purchases, but which she argued would “reduce harmful emissions.” She unveiled the regulations in July, two months after the White House withdrew her nomination.

“These revelations make it clear that Ann Carlson is utterly unsuited for a job in government,” Tom Jones, the president of right-leaning watchdog group American Accountability Foundation, told Fox News Digital. “Putting a Leftist swamp creature like her in charge of regulating vehicles in America, even after she was rejected by the Senate, is a serious scandal that Joe Biden needs to answer for. Carlson has spent her career making life harder for regular Americans with her arbitrary and delusional campaign to eradicate gasoline powered cars.” 

“As we’ve just seen, even electric vehicles’ biggest boosters at Ford have realized that this technology is not a realistic alternative to gasoline cars,” Jones added. “But thanks to Joe Biden she has the power to impose her extremist green ideology on all of us, attempting to become a Soviet style central planner for American cars.”

NHTSA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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