Interior Department

Interior IG to Review CfA’s Request for Investigation into Acting Secretary Bernhardt’s Relationship with Former Client

On April 2, 2019, CfA announced that the Office of Inspector General at the U.S. Department of the Interior confirmed it is reviewing CfA’s request for investigation into Acting Interior Secretary David Bernhardt and his relationship with his former lobbying client, Westlands Water District, an agricultural conglomerate in California.

Interior’s watchdog opens an ethics probe into Bernhardt four days after his Senate confirmation

"In a letter to the executive director of one of the groups, the Campaign for Accountability, Inspector General Mary L. Kendall wrote that her office 'received seven complaints, including yours, from a wide assortment of complainants alleging various conflict of interest and other violations by then deputy secretary of the interior, David Bernhardt.'"

David Bernhardt confirmed as Interior secretary despite ethics concerns

"In 2017, [...] Campaign for Accountability filed a complaint with the Department of Justice, asking for an investigation into whether Bernhardt had violated the Lobbying Disclosure Act by continuing to work on behalf of Westlands, despite having formally ended his lobbying activity. According to the group’s executive director, Daniel Stevens, it never got a response."

Watchdog Again Calls for Investigation of Interior Nominee David Bernhardt for Lobbying Disclosure Violations

On April 5, 2019, CfA again called on federal officials to investigate whether Acting Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt and his former lobbying firm, Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, LLP, violated the Lobbying Disclosure Act and the False Statements Act by failing to disclose Mr. Bernhardt’s apparent lobbying in connection with Westlands Water District (Westlands), an agricultural conglomerate in California. New documents indicate that Mr. Bernhardt continued to work for Westlands through April 2017 despite formally withdrawing his lobbying registration on November 18, 2016.

Bernhardt pushes ethics reforms amid complaints

"Bernhardt's ethics memo yesterday also happened to come on the same day the Campaign for Accountability, a nonprofit watchdog group, announced that Interior's Office of Inspector General confirmed it is reviewing a request for investigation into Bernhardt and his relationship with his former lobbying client, Westlands Water District in California."

Interior Dept. watchdog reviewing allegations that acting secretary violated Trump ethics pledge

"Several groups, including the Campaign Legal Center and the Campaign for Accountability, as well as Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), have questioned Bernhardt’s role in the Interior Department’s push to conduct an environmental analysis of proposed changes to federal and state water projects in California. That effort could free up more water for the Westlands Water District, which serves farmers in California’s Central Valley."

Watchdog amps up call for Wheeler lobbying probes

"In a follow-up complaint sent to the clerk of the House, the secretary of the Senate and — for the first time — the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, the Campaign for Accountability (CfA) requested investigations of potential violations of lobbying laws and statements made to the federal government by Wheeler and Faegre Baker Daniels Consulting, where he worked prior to joining EPA."

Watchdog Again Calls for Investigation of EPA Chief Andrew Wheeler for Failing to Disclose Lobbying Contacts

On March 12, 2019, CfA called on federal officials to investigate whether Andrew Wheeler, the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”), and his former lobbying firm, Faegre Baker Daniels Consulting, violated the Lobbying Disclosure Act by failing to disclose an April 2017 meeting with an Interior Department official regarding the borders of Bears Ears National Monument.

Bernhardt ethics probe sought over endangered fish rollback

"'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.'"

Watchdog Calls for Investigation into Acting Interior Secretary’s Actions to Benefit Former Lobbying Client

On February 19, 2019, CfA called on ethics officials at the Interior Department and the Office of Government Ethics to investigate David Bernhardt, the Acting Secretary of the Department of the Interior, and his relationship with his former lobbying client, Westlands Water District, an agricultural conglomerate in California. While at Interior, Mr. Bernhardt initiated a review of Endangered Species Act protections for two endangered species of fish in California, an issue he advocated for while working as a lobbyist for Westlands.

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