Today, Montana-based public lands watchdog Western Values Project launched a mobile billboard titled ‘Corrupt and Corrupter’ showcasing Washington D.C.’s most corrupt duo: President Donald J. Trump and Interior Secretary David L. Bernhardt. The billboard specifically highlights how Sec. Bernhardt is allowing his former clients, like the Independent Petroleum Association of America (IPAA), to call the shots at Interior at the expense of America’s public lands and shared resources.
“To hold the dubious honor of being President Trump’s most corrupt and conflicted cabinet member takes some serious swampiness. But Secretary Bernhardt keeps one-upping Trump’s other swampy members by allowing his former clients, like IPAA, to influence nearly every decision at Interior related to public lands, wildlife, and resources,” said Jayson O’Neill, Western Values Project Deputy Director. “There is still a chance for Congress to save America’s outdoor heritage and hold Secretary Bernhardt accountable for turning Interior into his own personal lobby shop.”
The mobile billboard will be traveling around Washington D.C. the entire week of December 9, looping in front of the White House and Interior’s office buildings throughout the metro area. Passersby and viewers are encouraged to take photos with the billboard, share them online with the hashtag #StopBernhardt, and sign an online petition demanding Congress hold Bernhardt accountable. The petition already has over 100,000 signatures.
“This billboard, which should turn some heads, would be funny if so much wasn’t at stake,” O’Neill continued.
Shortly after being sworn-in as President, and before Bernhardt became the department’s deputy director, Trump signed an executive order promoting ‘energy dominance’ that gave Bernhardt the green light to immediately begin exploiting America’s public lands and shared resources.
Bernhardt, the ultimate D.C. swamp creature and extractive resource mega-lobbyist by trade, declared some 26 conflicts-of-interest that he was to be recused from working on for two years under Trump’s so-called ethics order. Immediately after a historically controversial confirmation vote to become the department’s secretary, Bernhardt became the subject of a multi-faceted investigation by Interior’s internal watchdog for allegedly violating ethics rules after working on particular matters that benefited his former clients.
While the investigation is still ongoing, an Office of Government Ethics’ annual report released this summer and additional reporting from ProPublica confirmed that Sec. Bernhardt and other Trump political appointees at the department violated the administration’s so-called ethics pledge with impunity.
News reports, Western Values Project, and many other watchdog and public land groups have documented IPAA’s and Bernhardt’s former clients’ outsized influence on the department and its decisions since he came on board in August of 2017.