Bernhardt’s Former Powerful Lobby Firm Reaps Rewards of Interior’s Anti-Public Land Policies

As Bernhardt’s recusal list inches towards expiration, Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck rakes in millions in combined revenue 

Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt’s former lobbying firm made millions after he was appointed to a cabinet position in the Trump administration. 

Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck (BHFS) has topped the lobbying revenue ranking for the second quarter of 2019, with $2.7 million in revenue coming from lobbying Interior this year alone, according to data compiled from the Lobbying Disclosure Act database. Previous analysis by the Washington Post found Bernhardt’s former lobby firm has nearly quadrupled their business lobbying Interior since his confirmation in 2017.

“It’s no coincidence that Secretary Bernhardt’s former firm has gotten richer since he became Interior Secretary,” said Chris Saeger, Western Values Project Executive Director. “He is doing what their clients want at every turn so he can pave the way back to another lucrative lobbying job when he’s done at Interior, no matter what the consequences to our public lands. Americans deserve an Interior Secretary who will put their best interest ahead of the self-interests of Secretary Bernhardt’s former paymasters.”  

Bernhardt’s recusal list is extensive – so much so that he is known for carrying a card around with each former client’s name listed. But this seemingly hasn’t stopped Bernhardt from offering a helping hand to these former clients. In April, the Washington Post reported BHFS was “making millions” lobbying for the Department of the Interior, paying the firm $4.8 million to lobby Interior in 2018. At BHFS’s current pace, the firm will top $5 million in revenue this year from lobbying Interior, which could increase with Bernhardt’s final recusals expiring on August 3, 2019.

Bernhardt contends that his commitment to his recusal list stops him from weighing in on “particular matters.” However, in at least one matter, a former client of Bernhardt’s and current client of BHFS, Westlands Water District, has continued to reap major rewards in their push to divert critical river water from California’s San Joaquin desert valley – putting several endangered species at risk. 

Bernhardt has a history of breaking his ethics pledge in recusing himself from issues relating to his former clients. He became the subject of a multi-faceted ethics investigation for his involvement in decisions that have benefited former clients, including Westlands, just four days after his confirmation as Interior Secretary. Bernhardt’s tenure at Interior has been plagued with conflicts and scandals. 

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