Bernhardt ethics probe sought over endangered fish rollback

By: Jennifer Yachnin, E&E News, February 21, 2019

A government watchdog group is asking for a probe into whether acting Interior Secretary David Bernhardt violated his ethics pledge when he endorsed rollbacks to protections for endangered fish that would benefit California farmers he represented before joining the Trump administration.

The left­ leaning Campaign for Accountability today filed complaints with both the Office of Government Ethics and the Interior Department’s Office of Inspector General.

“Mr. Bernhardt exemplifies the definition of a revolving door official. Public officials should serve in government to carry out the public’s interests, not the interests of their lobbying clients,” CFA Executive Director Daniel Stevens wrote in the request. “Ethics officials should immediately investigate Mr. Bernhardt’s actions and determine if he violated the ethics pledge.”

The watchdog group’s complaint is in part based on a recent New York Times report that detailed Bernhardt’s role in rolling back Endangered Species Act protections for delta smelt and the winter­run chinook salmon.

The changes are favored by the Westlands Water District in the San Joaquin Valley, the largest agricultural water district in California. Bernhardt previously served as an attorney for the group.

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