Don’t Be Too Excited by Zinke’s Potential Departure
What could be worse than a laughably incompetent Secretary of the Interior who’s transparent in his desire to sell off our nation’s public lands to extraction industries? Well, how about someone with the experience and expertise to actually pull that feat off? Meet David Bernhardt, Zinke’s deputy and the man who will take over the Department of the Interior if Zinke is fired or resigns, as is rumored.
If Zinke is a swamp monster, then Bernhardt is the bigger, meaner swamp monster who shows up just when the heroes of this bad movie thought they’d won. Before accepting his current job as Deputy Secretary of the Interior, Bernhardt worked as a lobbyist for the oil, gas, and agriculture industries—industries that he’s now in a position to help regulate. Except he’s big on putting a “de” in front of that word.
Bernhardt’s links to industry have remained so strong during his tenure as Deputy Secretary that he’s actually drawn complaints from ethics watchdogs that he’s illegally continued his lobby activities while serving as a government official. According to a Campaign for Accountability complaint, he submitted a draft executive order about water rights in California to WWD for edits. The organization also alleges that he continued his work advising WWD well into 2017.
The complaint concludes with a request for investigation: “Based on the available evidence, it appears that Mr. Bernhardt may have [violated ethics rules] by failing to maintain his lobbying registration as required by the LDA. As a result, Campaign for Accountability respectfully requests that your office promptly initiate an investigation into this matter.”