Interior Secretary Bernhardt’s Former Lobbying Firm Represents Intrepid Potash, Corporation That Paid Top Executive Millions; Big Mining And Oil Had Highest Rate Of Bailout Success

HELENA, MT Mining corporation Intrepid Potash got a $10 million taxpayer-funded bailout that was supposed to go to small businesses impacted by the pandemic, even as the corporation paid its executives millions and said its facilities were operating as normal. The research released today by Accountable.US follows recent reporting by the Associated Press that found big oil and mining corporations had the greatest success in getting bailouts through the Trump Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and polling that found strong majorities believe that Trump and Republicans have acted in the best interest of major corporations, not working people.

“The Trump administration’s favor factory hasn’t stopped with a global pandemic. As millions of jobs disappear week after week, the Trump administration is prioritizing aid for wealthy, well-connected corporations before small businesses,” said Jayson O’Neill, spokesperson for Accountable.US. “Add Intrepid Potash to the growing list of big mining corporations getting bailouts that have deep ties to the Trump administration, pay top executives millions, and admit they don’t even need the funds. America’s small businesses are going bankrupt because the Trump administration is morally bankrupt.”

Intrepid Potash, a Denver, Colorado based mining corporation with operations in New Mexico and Utah, received a $10 million taxpayer bailout that was supposed to go to small businesses impacted by the pandemic, even as the company paid its top executives nearly $5 million in 2019 and said its facilities were operating as normal according to a press release issued earlier this month.

The mining corporation hired Interior Secretary David Bernhardt’s former lobby shop, mega-lobbying firm Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck (BHFS), which is already cashing in from coronavirus lobbying, in 2017 and has paid the firm $70,000 according to the Senate Lobbying Disclosure database. Intrepid Potash has had workplace safety and environmental violation penalties totaling nearly half a million dollars since 2005.

These filings were compiled as part of an ongoing tracking project by Accountable.US. TrumpBailouts.org documents the billion-dollar corporations and other large companies that have received taxpayer assistance under the CARES Act, and what advantages and assets they had going into the COVID-19 crisis that most small businesses could never access.

According to watchdog group Accountable.US’s tally, the ‘Mining’ sector, which includes oil and gas, has been awarded over $3.9 billion. Senate and House lawmakers introduced new legislation last week that would prohibit the Trump administration from bailing out big oil corporations.

Previously controversial PPP grantees include a foreign-owned uranium mining corporation with ties to the Trump administration, oil corporations that spent millions on stock buybacks, an Indiana-based coal corporation with a former Trump official as its lobbyist, at least two companies that market their ability to ship U.S. manufacturing jobs overseas, major luxury hotel chains, a fashion model agency, and even the L.A. Lakers.  

BACKGROUND: The Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program has been plagued with reports of legitimate small businesses unable to access the help the President claimed would come in “record time”. They have faced a bureaucratic maze often ending in delays and rejection as banks reportedly prioritized those “with the best relationships — not the neediest or most deserving.” A recent survey of small businesses found only 13% of the 45% who applied for a PPP loan were ever approved, and experts believe that nearly 90% of minority and women small business owners have been shut out of the program. Meanwhile, CEOs of large companies have managed to coast through the process. Well over 300 publicly-traded firms or conflicted companies, some worth more than $100 million, have received over a billion dollars in taxpayer money. It’s no wonder the Trump administration has shied away from transparency in this process.

The Trump Administration Bailed Out Intrepid Potash For $10 Million Dollars Even Though The Company Didn’t Need it

Intrepid Potash Got A $10 Million Taxpayer Bailout That Was Supposed To Go To Small Businesses Impacted By The Pandemic, Even As The Company Paid Its Executives Millions And Said Its Facilities Were Operating As Normal

Intrepid Potash Got A $10 Million Bailout Even Though The Pandemic Didn’t Negatively Impact Their Facilities 

Intrepid Potash Got A $10 Million Bailout Under The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). Intrepid Potash “Received $10 million loan under CARES Act Paycheck Protection Program. Intrepid will only use the money to fund payroll and other eligible expenses and expects the majority of the loan will be forgiven pursuant to the current guidelines of the CARES Act.” [Intrepid Potash press release, 05/06/20]

Intrepid Potash Says Its “Facilities Continue To Operate At Normal Rates” During The Pandemic. “As an essential business that supports agriculture, animal feed, and the oil and gas industry, we take our responsibilities seriously. We took decisive steps to safeguard our employees, contractors, and visitors early in March and our facilities continue to operate at normal rates. We established work at home policies for support staff while taking the necessary precautions at our mine sites, including staggered schedules, additional cleaning protocols, visitor limitations, and social distancing whenever possible.” [Intrepid Potash press release, 05/06/20]

In April 2020, Intrepid Potash Announced That It Would “Invest Approximately $10 Million For Sustaining Capital In 2020. “In light of the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on the economy, Intrepid has acted early and proactively to adjust capital plans for the remainder of 2020.  The Company expects to invest approximately $10 million  for sustaining capital in 2020 while opportunity capital will be approximately $5-10 million for the full year.” [Bloomberg, 04/16/20]

Intrepid Potash Paid Its Executives Over $4.9 Million In 2019

Intrepid Potash Paid Its Top Executives $4,904,083 In Total Compensation In 2019. 

  • Robert P. Jornayvaz III, The CEO Of Intrepid Potash, Received $2,749,027 In Total Compensation In 2019. [Intrepid Potash Schedule 14A, 04/07/20]
  • Robert E. Baldridge, The Senior Vice President Of Intrepid Potash, Received $443,146 In Total Compensation In 2019. [Intrepid Potash Schedule 14A, 04/07/20]
  • Mark A. McDonald, The Vice President Of Sales And Marketing, Received $353,188 In Total Compensation In 2019. [Intrepid Potash Schedule 14A, 04/07/20]
  • Matthew D. Preston, The Vice President Of Finance, Received $249,604 In Total Compensation In 2019. [Intrepid Potash Schedule 14A, 04/07/20]
  • Erica K. Wyatt, The Chief Human Resources Officer, Received $301,672 In Total Compensation In 2019. [Intrepid Potash Schedule 14A, 04/07/20]
  • Margaret E. McCandless, The Former Vice President, General Counsel, And Secretary, Received  $402,092 In Total Compensation In 2019. [Intrepid Potash Schedule 14A, 04/07/20]
  • Joseph G. Montoya, The Former Vice President And Chief Accounting Officer, Received $405,354 In Total Compensation In 2019. [Intrepid Potash Schedule 14A, 04/07/20]

Intrepid Potash Hired David Bernhardt’s Former Lobbying Firm Just Days After Trump’s Inauguration 

Intrepid Potash Hired Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck (BHFS) On February 10, 2017. [Intrepid Potash Lobbying Registration, 02/10/17]

  • Since Then, Intrepid Potash Has Paid BHFS $70,000. [Senate LDA Database Search, accessed 05/08/20]

Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck (BHFS) Is A Well-Connected DC Lobbying Firm Whose Former Partner, David Bernhardt, Is Now Donald Trump’s Interior Secretary. “Before becoming acting secretary, Bernhardt spent about eight years as a partner in Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, one of the nation’s top-grossing law and lobbying firms, according to public rankings. There he represented energy, mining and Western water interests that deal with the Interior Department, including two California entities, Westlands Water District — the nation’s largest irrigation district — and Cadiz Inc.” [LA Times, 04/11/19]

Throughout The Trump Administration, BHFS Has Enjoyed Increased Business From Lobbying Clients Seeking Influence In Trump’s Government. “Business has blossomed at Interior Secretary David Bernhardt’s former law and lobbying firm in the 31 months since he was first nominated to a Trump administration post, a new study by an environmental group shows. Thirty-six clients have paid Denver-based firm Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck LLP a total of $11.96 million to lobby the Interior Department, the study found, including 19 clients that hired the company after Bernhardt’s initial nomination in April 2017.” [E&E, 12/18/19]

Intrepid Potash Lost A Legal Battle With New Mexico Ranchers In April After It Tried To “Completely Drain The Pecos” River

Intrepid Potash Lost A Court Fight With Ranchers After A New Mexico State Judge Ruled Its Water Permits Were “‘Illegal.’” “Ranchers in a southeastern New Mexico community are claiming victory in a legal battle with a potash company over water rights connected to the Pecos River. A state District Court judge ruled last week to call on the New Mexico Office of the State Engineer to show cause for issuing the company seven ‘preliminary authorizations’ to shift its water rights from use for potash refining to sales to the oil and gas industry, the Carlsbad Current-Argus reported. Eddy County District Judge Ray Romero said authorizations, which were issued without hearings or public participation, should be canceled as ‘illegal’ permits.” [Associated Press, 04/08/20]

Intrepid Potash Tried To Claim Ownership Of 35,000 Acre-Feet Of Water And Consume An Amount That Ranchers Said “Could Completely Drain The Pecos” River. “The Denver-based Intrepid Potash recently claimed ownership of about 35,000 acre-feet of water rights along the Pecos River, with 19,000 identified for consumption. Ranchers in a rural area south of Carlsbad said that move could completely drain the Pecos. In response to the Intrepid Potash’s claims, the Carlsbad Irrigation District filed litigation intended to block Intrepid’s ownership of the water and seven ‘preliminary authorizations’ granted by the Office of the State Engineer to change the point of diversion and manner of use of the water.” [Associated Press, 04/08/20]

Intrepid Potash Has Racked Up Nearly A Half Million Dollars In Penalties For Environmental And Workplace Safety Violations

Intrepid Potash Has Had 12 Workplace Safety Or Health Violations Totaling $261,005 In Penalties Since 2005. [Violation Tracker, accessed 05/08/20]

Intrepid Potash Has Had Five Environmental Violations Totaling $234,318 In Penalties Since 2007. [Violation Tracker, accessed 05/08/20]

Intrepid Potash Barely Comes In Under The PPP Employee Number Threshold 

Intrepid Potash Has 445 Employees. “As of January 31, 2020, we had 445 employees, the majority of which were full-time employees.” [Intrepid Potash 10-K, 12/31/19]

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