Attorney general nominee Jeff Sessions did not disclose his ownership of oil interests on land in Alabama as required by federal ethics rules, according to an examination of state records and independent ethics lawyers who reviewed the documents. Alabama records show that Sessions owns subsurface rights to oil and other minerals on more than 600 acres in his home state, some of which are adjacent to a federal wildlife preserve.
The holdings are small, producing revenue in the range of $4,700 annually. But the interests were not disclosed on forms sent by Sessions to the Office of Government Ethics, which reviews the assets of Cabinet nominees for potential conflicts of interest.
Ethics experts said the rules require more complete and specific public disclosure.
“Office of Government Ethics guidance clearly states with regard to mineral rights leases that filers must disclose their real estate holding as well as the identity of the lessee and the specific type of resources being extracted,” said Bryson Morgan, a former investigative counsel to the Office of Congressional Ethics now working at the Caplin & Drysdale law firm.
Sessions did make reference to $4,474 in oil royalty revenue in a Senate Judiciary Committee questionnaire last month, but he did not describe the nature of his holdings, including rights to oil located under the federal wildlife refuge.
Trevor Potter, an ethics lawyer who has advised several GOP presidential candidates, said Sessions’s ethics agreement may now need to be adjusted.
“The fact that his oil is in a federal wildlife refuge means he should not be involved in DOJ policies concerning drilling or environmental issues” involving federal reserves, Potter said. “Clearly he should have disclosed the asset.”
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Excerpt taken from the article "Sessions Failed to Disclose Oil Interests as Required, Ethics Experts Say" by Tom Hamburger for The Washington Post.