Senator Martin Heinrich sided with President Trump in voting for conflict-ridden Interior Secretary nominee and ex-lobbyist David Bernhardt. Bernhardt’s nomination will now move to a full Senate vote, setting up what is sure to be a contentious floor debate and final vote. Senator Heinrich previously voted against Bernhardt’s nomination to be deputy interior secretary.
“Senator Heinrich traded a mile of America’s and New Mexico’s outdoor heritage to gain an inch. While he has been an important public lands ally in the past, it’s astounding that he would support a nominee that could not be further out of step with the basic principles of conservation most Westerners share in common,” said Chris Saeger, Western Values Project Executive Director. “When Bernhardt’s nomination goes to the full Senate, Heinrich can either stand with President Trump and his special interest allies or he can stand up for all of New Mexico’s public lands. We hope he chooses to do the right thing.”
During Bernhardt’s hearing, Senators were unable to get clarification on several key conflicts of interest questions raised by Western Values Project. Just as bad, calls by Senator Wyden and others to delay his vote based on serious concerns regarding Bernhardt’s culture of corruption were ignored. Senator Heinrich joined with every Republican on the committee in voting to confirm Bernhardt, Trump’s most conflicted cabinet nominee to date.
In addition to his laundry list of conflicts of interest, Bernhardt has overseen some of the department’s most controversial public land decisions, including rushed oil and gas leasing across the West and was responsible for the mismanagement of America’s national parks during the historic government shutdown. An investigative report found that within four months of his confirmation as Interior Deputy Secretary, Bernhardt pushed for a decision that would be beneficial for his former client. He’s been involved in an estimated 17 scandals prior to Heinrich’s supportive committee vote.
Western Values Project (WVP) filed suit against the Interior Department in July of 2018 for public documents related to Bernhardt’s involvement with his former lobbying firm and clients. Interior has been stonewalling the release of the documents and only now begun releasing preliminary documents related to the ten requests.
WVP previously launched davidbernhardt.org, a website that details Bernhardt’s conflicts of interest and highlights instances of Interior policies he has worked on that benefit his former clients.