Onetime aides to Inhofe are now serving in high-profile roles, many of them dealing with energy and the environment. | Claudine Hellmuth/POLITICO (graphic); Francis Chung/POLITICO (Inhofe photo)
By Timothy Cama
Jim Inhofe is retiring from the Senate, but his legacy will live on for years in environmental policy circles through dozens of former staff members in key, influential positions.
The Oklahoma Republican established an international image for his denial of climate change, calling it a “hoax,” despite the overwhelming scientific consensus. That denial led him to fiercely oppose many sweeping climate and environmental policies and major legislation in areas like infrastructure and chemical safety.
Over his decades in the Senate, many people gravitated toward Inhofe and his message. The former Environment and Public Works Committee chair churned out a steady team of dedicated, ambitious staffers who are now in powerful positions in energy and aren’t afraid to argue passionately for their conservative, pro-business positions. They stand to continue dominating right-wing environmental spaces for years.
The alumni group, many of whom returned to Capitol Hill last month for Inhofe’s farewell speech, have worked at all levels of government and the private sector, in jobs ranging from climate science skepticism to fossil fuels, renewable energy and diplomacy (E&E Daily, Nov. 18).
Perhaps Inhofe’s best-known former staffer is Andrew Wheeler, currently the top environmental adviser to Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) and formerly EPA’s administrator. He was EPW’s Republican staff director under Inhofe from 2003 to 2009.
Other notable former Inhofe aides from EPW or his personal office include Nuclear Regulatory Commission member Annie Caputo; Oklahoma City Mayor David Holt; former Senate candidate Luke Holland; former senior House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis aide Marty Hall; and Donelle Harder, a former adviser to Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt (R).
Marc Morano, another former Inhofe staffer, has dedicated his career to denying climate change as founder and executive director of Climate Depot.
A host of past Inhofe aides are working as lobbyists or in government affairs.
Morano, the Climate Depot executive director, said that Inhofe “helped me immensely to understand how to oppose bad ideas in Washington, and he aided me in launching my climate opposition career,” said Morano.
“He attracted high-level talented staff, and the proof of that is how his former staff members turned into a ‘Who’s Who’ of those running official Washington’s environmental policies many years later.”
Morano’s full unabridged statement to Politico’s E&E reporter:
Morano: “Senator Inhofe’s legacy in the climate change battle is unparalleled. If anyone ever doubted the power of one man standing up and saying no and preventing unscientific and ineffective climate legislation from passing, look no further than Senator Inhofe. His courage in standing up to his own party, the media, and the establishment were an inspiration and a very rare commodity on Capitol Hill. Inhofe was Trump before Trump. The Senator always had a quip, joke, or clever way to flip the narrative of hostile media reporters (and there were plenty of those). Inhofe said what was on his mind and said it bluntly and oftentimes with humor. Even his arch rivals, like Calif. Dem Senator Barbara Boxer, could not help but be drawn to his humor and wit.
He was a joy to work for and treated all of his staff with respect and dignity. Due to the lighting rod nature of his successful climate crusade against cap-and-trade and the UN agenda, his Senate staff was often subjected to much pressure from official DC disapproval.
Senator Inhofe helped me immensely to understand how to oppose bad ideas in Washington, and he aided me in launching my climate opposition career. He attracted talented high-level staff, and the proof of that is how his former staff members turned into a Who’s Who of those running official Washington’s environmental policies many years later. I have stayed in touch with many former Inhofe staffers, and we are like a fraternity of loyal foot soldiers who cannot believe his time as a Senator is winding down.
The U.S. Senate is losing a great one when Senator Inhofe steps down. He will be sorely missed.”