CfA Asks DOJ to Investigate Interior Department Nominee for Lobbying Disclosure Violations

David Bernhardt, President Trump’s nominee for Deputy Secretary, continued to lobby for the Westlands Water District despite formally withdrawing his lobbying registration.

Image credit: The Denver Post

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: July 20, 2017

Contact: Daniel Stevens, dstevens@campaignforaccountability.org, 202.780.5750

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Campaign for Accountability called on the U.S. Attorney for the District of Colombia to investigate whether David Bernhardt, President Trump’s nominee for Deputy Secretary of the Department of the Interior, violated the Lobbying Disclosure Act by continuing to lobby despite formally withdrawing his registration in 2016.  Emails obtained through a California public records request show Mr. Bernhardt continued to advance the interests of Westlands Water District, a California agricultural entity, after terminating his lobbying registration.

Read the complaint here.

CfA Executive Director Daniel Stevens stated, “Mr. Bernhardt appears to have continued with business as usual despite terminating his lobbying registration.  Sadly, it appears that Mr. Bernhardt is following a long-standing Trump Administration practice of ignoring ethics rules.  The U.S. attorney should immediately investigate Mr. Bernhardt’s conduct and determine whether he violated lobbying disclosure laws.”

In January, Mr. Bernhardt’s firm, Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, LLP, filed a lobbying disclosure report that declared Mr. Bernhardt had terminated his lobbying for Westlands Water District on November 18, 2016.  Thereafter, he began heading the Trump administration’s transition team at the Interior Department.  Mr. Bernhardt, however, continued to work with Westlands to advance its legislative agenda.

On November 28, 2016, Mr. Bernhardt sent an e-mail to Tom Birmingham, Westlands Water District’s General Manager, and others with his edits on a proposed “draft executive order” for then-President-elect Donald Trump. The Executive Order addressed water issues in California.

In early January, Mr. Bernhardt worked closely with Rep. David Valadao’s congressional office to introduce a new bill that would benefit Westlands.  Then, in February, Brownstein, Hyatt, Farber, Schreck sent Westlands an invoice regarding federal lobbying expenditures that included $582.09 worth of services itemized for Mr. Bernhardt’s “Westlands Trip” between January 31 and February 2.

Mr. Stevens continued, “Mr. Bernhardt appears to view the Lobbying Disclosure Act as a mere nuisance that can be ignored when it’s convenient.  Lobbying disclosure laws exist to give the public confidence that lobbyists are being monitored and held accountable.  Given Mr. Bernhardt’s flagrant disregard for transparency, the U.S. Attorney should investigate his actions.”

Click here to download the emails released by the Westlands Water District (.pst files).

CfA is nonprofit watchdog organization that uses research, litigation, and aggressive communications to expose misconduct and malfeasance in public life and hold those who act at the expense of the public good accountable for their actions.