Interior nominee, set for a confirmation vote Monday, accused of conflict of interest

By: Darryl Fears, Washington Post, July 21, 2017

David Bernhardt, President Trump’s nominee for deputy Interior Department secretary, has been described as “an excellent choice” by supporters and “a walking conflict of interest” by opponents. The full Senate is set to vote on his nomination Monday.

Bernhardt isn’t new to Interior. He served under former president George W. Bush as solicitor, the third-ranking position at the department, and as a legal officer. But more recently, he worked for a lobbying firm representing energy interests and a water district.

That role has led to controversy. A nonprofit group, Campaign for Accountability, claims that Bernhardt continued to lobby for the Westlands Water District in California after withdrawing his registration as a lobbyist in November. In a letter to the Justice Department asking it to investigate the claim, the group claims Bernhardt edited a draft executive order for then President-elect Trump involving water issues that stood to benefit Westland Water.

Campaign for Accountability said Bernhardt continued to work with Westlands Water into January. The allegation doesn’t show whether Bernhardt was paid for any work conducted after deactivating his registration, but Daniel Stevens, executive director of the group, said: “I don’t think that matters. He’s still advancing the agenda of the group.” Stevens said the campaign hasn’t gotten a response from Justice and doesn’t expect to. “We’d probably be the last people to know. They would just conduct an investigation without telling us.”

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