EX-LOBBYIST WHO IS TOO CONFLICTED
TO BE INTERIOR SECRETARY
David Bernhardt is the “ultimate DC swamp creature” who has gone round and round through the revolving door between industry and government:
Bernhardt began his career in the 1990s working for Scott McInnis (R-CO) before taking a position in the Washington lobbying shop of Brownstein, Hyatt and Farber, where he lobbied on behalf of oil and chemical companies.
In 2001, Bernhardt went to work for the Interior Department. His time at Interior was marred by scandal, including when he replaced independent government analysis in congressional testimony with reports funded by oil companies, oversaw the forced resignation of a whistleblower, and served as Counselor to the Secretary when the Jack Abramoff corruption scandal was ravaging the Interior Department.
In July 2017, Bernhardt was confirmed as Deputy Secretary of the Interior. Since then, he has led Interior’s review of the 2015 sage grouse plans, started weakening the Endangered Species Act, rescinded Obama-era climate change and conservation policies, and undermined Interior’s ability to make decisions based on the best available scientific research, just to name a few of his attacks on public lands and wildlife.
Former clients and entities from which Bernhardt has promised to recuse himself include…
Former Secretary Zinke was the subject of 17 investigations. His downfall was brought about in part by his involvement in a sweetheart real estate deal that his family’s foundation was pursuing with private developers, including the Chairman of Halliburton. Halliburton is one of Bernhardt’s former clients and is included on his ethics recusal. Since becoming Deputy Secretary of the Interior, has Bernhardt been in communication with Halliburton or anyone representing Halliburton? Did Bernhardt have any knowledge of the meeting Zinke held in his office with the Halliburton chairman, or of the sweetheart real estate deal? Will the pending investigation into Zinke continue? What was Bernhardt’s involvement in Interior’s rescinding fracking regulations that benefited Haliburton?
Under Ryan Zinke’s leadership and Bernhardt’s direction, Interior limited public participation, suppressed science, and permeated a culture of corruption. The department also has been plagued by pervasive sexual harassment and low employee morale. How does Bernhardt plan to solve these problems as acting Secretary of the Interior?
How does he explain multiple instances of former clients benefiting from Interior decisions under his leadership? With Bernhardt now overseeing the entire department, how does he intend to honor his ethics recusals with his former lobbying clients that have business before the department?
Has Bernhardt given former clients preferential access to decision-making around two of his major initiatives – reforming the Endangered Species Act and reviewing the cooperative sage grouse agreements?
Will he ensure access to public lands by supporting and funding programs like the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF)?
An Interior Department board, chaired by Bernhardt, vindictively reassigned employees without consultation leading to Interior’s own inspector general issuing a report criticizing how the board failed to document its plan or gather necessary information when reassigning senior executives. What was Bernhardt’s role in re-assigning Interior career employees, including the controversial reassignment of the Yellowstone National Park Superintendent? Why wasn’t proper documentation of the reassignments kept?
During Bernhardt’s past tenure as Interior Solicitor during the George W. Bush administration, the department was similarly plagued by scandal and corruption, including having high level officials involved in the ex-casino lobbyist Jack Abramoff scandal. Recently, Bernhardt was at the center of an Interior non-decision on the approval of a Native American casino in Connecticut. The casino was opposed by MGM Grand, who is being represented by Bernhardt’s former lobbying firm. With Bernhardt as acting Secretary, how can the American people be sure that corruption and special interest lobbyist favors won’t happen again?