Is Bob Gillam Qualified to be Interior Secretary?

Robert Gillam, CEO of McKinley Capital Management, Gazillionaire and Scofflaw

Robert Gillam, CEO of McKinley Capital Management, Gazillionaire and Scofflaw

Stop laughing for a moment.

Alaska’s richest man is rumored to be on president-elect Trump’s list as a possible Secretary of the Interior. As a service to readers, let’s examine Gillam’s credentials for being a part of the Trump Administration, to measure the odds that the rumor is true.

You have to be a billionaire. While Bob Gillam is Alaska’s richest man, and while WC has referred to him as Billionaire Bob, it’s likely he falls short, with a reported net worth of a mere $320 million. Not rich enough for the billionaire’s club that is the Trump cabinet.

You have to have highly marginal credentials for the post. Think Jeff Sessions as Attorney General. Gillam, of course, is an in-holder in Lake Clark National Park. Sure it’s a palace, but people who have stayed there don’t describe solid gold faucets. Other than being an in-holder, Gillam has no knowledge of the Department of Interior or what it does. Sort of like Betsy Devos’s knowledge of public education. Granted, his ignorance of that Interior does is hardly unique, but he’d fit in under this criterion.

You have to be a scofflaw. You have to believe the law doesn’t apply to you and that it’s unfair when someone tries to enforce the law against you. Like the president-elect and Trump University. Gillam fits this criterion nicely. He’s even got that persecution complex thing down; remember his lawsuit against the Alaska Public Offices Commission because it was picking in him? And he’s paid the largest fine APOC has ever levied. Granted, Gillam’s scofflaw tendencies are pretty lame in comparison to Trump. But the sensibility is there.

Wait, you say, Gillam was the arch-opponent of Pebble Mine. He’s a conservationist. That’s anathema to the Trump Administration. You misunderstand Bob Gillam. His motivation in Pebble was purely NIMBY. Not In My Backyard. Development of Pebble Mine would have impacted his Lake Clark Palace. Conservationists were an ally of convenience, most of them owuldn’t stand too close to Gillam at that. Donald Trump is the poster child for self-indulgentcy and utter self-interest. If Trump pauses long enough to look at the detail – a dubious proposition for a guy who’s not exactly a deep thinker – he might see a kindred spirit in Gillam.

Yeah, but then there’s Wally Hickel. The late Governor Hickel was plucked from his first term as governor to be Richard Nixon’s Secretary of the Interior.1 Hickel’s credentials were that Alaska had lots of public land, which, oddly enough, is Gillam’s primary credential.2 Governor Hickel had the temerity to criticize Nixon’s Vietnam policy and Nixon and Agnew’s criticism of students protesting against the war. From Tricky Dick’s point of view, he turned on his boss. On 60 Minutes, no less. The Hickel appointment might give even Donald Trump pause.

In any sane universe, the idea of Bob Gillam as Secretary of the Interior would be laughable. But sanity is not a requirement for the Trump Administration. By the standards of Donald Trump, Gillam might get a second look. Even if his net worth makes him a “loser” by Trumpian definition. But if anyone in the selection process remembers Wally Hickel, Gillam is doomed. Even if he is a career hedge fund manager who likely can’t even name the principle divisions of the Department of Interior.


  1. Hickel’s departure gave Alaskans Keith Miller as governor, the worst governor Alaska had until (a) Sarah Palin and (b) Sean Parnell. The collateral damage to Alaska could be severe a second time. 
  2. It seems to have escaped Gillam’s notice, for example, that the Forest Service, which manages Tongass and Chugach National Forests, is part of the Department of Agriculture, not the Department of the Interior. Oopsie. Of course, in the Trump Administration, this kind of ignorance may be a credential and not a deficit.