After the U.S. Senate voted 56-41 to confirm Trump’s most conflict-ridden cabinet nominee, former mega-lobbyist David Bernhardt, to be the Secretary of the Interior, Western Values Project Executive Director Chris Saeger issued the following statement:
“President Trump and his allies in the Senate are turning back the clock to a time when land barons again rule the departments that are supposed to hold them accountable. Those special interests and corporate lobbyists now have their man at the helm of America’s largest land managing agency in former mega-lobbyist David Bernhardt.
History will not look kindly on the Senators who voted to continue the decimation of America’s public lands and wildlife for the sake of a select few special interests.
Rushing to move forward with Bernhardt’s nomination without clarification on his numerous ethical lapses and investigative requests is not only a disservice to the American people, but it also means that Interior will again be led by a secretary shrouded in scandal. Make no mistake: a vote to confirm David Bernhardt for Interior Secretary was a vote against our American birthright and the viability of our public lands for future generations.”
Bernhardt, a former mega-lobbyist for the powerful Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck firm, has some 26 known conflicts of interests before the department he will now manage. He carries a notecard with him to remind him of his laundry list of conflicts and recusals, but it hasn’t stopped him from weighing in on decisions that would benefit former clients. His powerful position at Interior has resulted in major windfalls for his former lobbying firm, which has nearly quadrupled its Interior Department and extractive industries income since Bernhardt’s confirmation as Deputy Secretary in July 2017, according to an analysis by the Washington Post.
Bernhardt has also been accused of lying under oath during his committee hearing related to his role in suppressing scientific reports, and Senators were unable to get clarification on several other key conflicts of interest questions prior to his final Senate vote.
Senate Republican leadership ignored calls to withdraw or delay his floor vote until his numerous ethical and investigative queries were resolved, even after a New York Times report showed that he may have conducted unreported lobbying activity for a former client, a potential violation of the Lobbying Disclosure Act of 1995.
Bernhardt has overseen some of the department’s most controversial public land decisions, including opening millions of acres of public lands to industrial oil and gas development and mismanaging America’s national parks during the historic government shutdown. He’s been involved in at least 17 scandals prior to his confirmation.
More information on the former lobbyist and his conflicts is available at www.davidbernhardt.org.