ICYMI: Interior caught handing over millions to Bernhardt clients

Inspector general’s report shows Bureau of Reclamation improperly gave millions in funds

It didn’t take long for David Bernhardt’s record as a lobbyist to catch up with him. Now the Deputy Secretary at the Department of the Interior, Bernhardt left his job at a Washington, D.C. lobbying firm earlier this year to take the post. The Washington Post broke a story showing that Bernhardt’s former client, Westlands Water District, was involved in millions of dollars of misallocated federal subsidies.

report from the office of the inspector general concluded that the Bureau of Reclamation, an agency under the Interior Department, “improperly provided millions of dollars in subsidies to contractors” including the Westlands Water District.

“How can we trust Bernhardt to hold anyone accountable for wasting millions of taxpayer dollars when it involves his former employer? He refused to answer key questions about his lobbying record during the nomination process, and now we know why,” said Chris Saeger, Executive Director of the Western Values Project. “Bernhardt is just one of dozens of former lobbyists and special interests in senior roles at the Interior Department. This news proves that when you fill your department with lobbyists, it’s going to get swampy.”

David Bernhardt has some serious questions to answer. Did he or his firm know about this improper use of taxpayer funds? And as second in command at Interior, will he hold his former client accountable? During his confirmation hearing, Bernhardt refused to disclose his client list to Senators. Additionally, Westlands Water District has refused to answer California Public Records Act requests filed by the Western Values Project.

This isn’t the first-time Deputy Bernhardt’s lobbying past has gotten him into hot water. During his Senate confirmation, Campaign for Accountability filed a complaint with the United States Attorney for the District of Columbia arguing that Bernhardt may have violated the Lobbying Disclosure Act.

Join the effort to strengthen the American West.