Western Values Project (WVP) released a report documenting all of Interior Deputy Secretary David Bernhardt’s apparent conflicts-of-interest since he started working at Interior slightly over a year ago. A former lobbyist, Interior Secretary Zinke’s dirty deputy has been a controversial figure ever since his nomination to Interior’s number-two position. WVP has noticed a troubling pattern of Deputy Bernhardt’s former clients receiving favorable decisions from Interior ever since he became Secretary Zinke’s second-in-command.
Every Trump administration appointee is required to sign an ethics pledge, in which they promise to, “not for a period of 2 years” from the date of their appointment, “participate in any particular matter involving specific parties that is directly and substantially related to my former employer or former clients.” And although David Bernhardt signed an ethics recusal in which he promised to recuse himself from particular matters involving his former clients until August 3, 2019, WVP has found blatant instances in which he and the Interior Department have been involved in helping his former clients.
“Deputy Secretary Bernhardt has extraordinary power at Interior and his former clients are benefitting,” said Western Values Project Executive Director Chris Saeger. “It appears he is taking advantage of a loophole in his ethics recusal requirements. What we don’t know is how those decisions are being made because they’re being made in the dark, behind closed doors. It’s well past time for him and his cronies to come clean and act in the best interests of America’s public lands, not corporate special interests.”
Deputy David Bernhardt has been involved in many policy and personnel decisions at Interior since assuming his post last year. While WVP has examined over 50,000 public documents released by Interior, only one email has been sent by Bernhardt, raising serious questions as to how decisions that impact our public lands, national parks, and wildlife are being made and for whom.
Just weeks ago, WVP and Democracy Forward were forced to sue the Department of the Interior for failing to release public documents regarding decisions in which Bernhardt was involved and communications relating to his former clients after WVP’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests went unfulfilled. Stay tuned to see what we find out.
Read Western Values Project’s full report on Deputy Secretary Bernhardt here.
Also published on Medium.