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

By: Darryl Fears, The Washington Post, April 15, 2019

The Interior Department’s internal watchdog opened an investigation into ethics complaints against former oil and gas lobbyist David Bernhardt on Monday, four days after the Senate confirmed him as the agency’s secretary.

A spokeswoman for Interior’s inspector general’s office, Nancy DiPaolo, said the probe is “based on requests from multiple lawmakers and others.” At least eight senators who chastised Bernhardt during his confirmation hearing, including Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), called for an investigation. Numerous conservation groups also submitted demands for inquiry into potential conflicts of interest.

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.”

“We are continuing to gather pertinent information about the complaints and have opened an investigation to address them,” Kendall added. “We will conduct our review as expeditiously and thoroughly as practicable.”

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