Colorado lawmakers among those expressing “extreme concern” over Trump team probe of federal lab employees

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Washington, D.C.-, December 20, 2016 | comments

Twenty-seven members of Congress, all Democrats, sent a letter to president-elect Donald Trump on Monday expressing concern over the presidential transition team’s effort to collect personal information from employees of federal laboratories.

The signatories, which include Democratic U.S. Reps. Ed Perlmutter and Diana DeGette, cited a Washington Post story published earlier this monththat said the transition team had asked for “a list of the top 20 salaried employees of the labs, the labs’ peer-reviewed publications over the past three years, a list of their professional society memberships, affiliations, and the websites they maintain or contribute to ‘during working hours’.”

Colorado is home to a number of U.S. Department of Commerce labs, including the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Boulder, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden.

“Such questions about DOE lab staff are worrisome because they suggest there may be attempts by the incoming administration to retaliate against them or defund their work,” the letter reads.

Several days after The Washington Post story appeared, Trump transition team officials disavowed the questionnaire sent to the Energy Department. One official told CNN: “The questionnaire was not authorized or part of our standard protocol. The person who sent it has been properly counseled.”

Despite the disavowal, the congressional members who signed Monday’s letter asked that the president-elect’s staff “send us the specific questions that were asked of DOE about lab staff, the purpose behind them, and what you plan to do with any information that is learned.”

The lawmakers, who sit on committees with jurisdiction over the country’s 17 federal labs, said the questionnaire was part of a larger effort by the incoming administration to get information about scientists and DOE employees who had done climate change-related work.

“Regardless of one’s views on climate change, it is simply inappropriate to target hard-working public servants simply for doing their jobs,” the letter said. “Staff at our DOE labs go where the science takes them, and for that they should be praised, not punished.”

The Department of Energy has refused to provide any individual names to the transition team.

Content originally published by The Denver Post on December 20, 2016.
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