Zinke’s new No. 2 once lobbied for CA’s largest water district

Despite accusations of conflicts of interest, David Bernhardt was confirmed as deputy Interior secretary.

 

This story was originally published by Reveal, and is republished here with permission.

The Senate approved President Donald Trump’s choice of a lobbyist for a top environmental post today, shrugging off complaints that the nominee’s work for agribusiness concerns and oil drillers posed potential conflicts of interest.

In voting to confirm David Bernhardt to the No. 2 post at the U.S. Department of the Interior, Senate Republicans pushed past evidence that he secretly lobbied for his biggest client, the powerful Westlands Water District in California’s Central Valley.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke swears in new Deputy Secretary David Bernhardt.
Courtesy of the U.S. Department of the Interior

At a hearing last month, Bernhardt testified that he stopped lobbying for Westlands on Nov. 18, 2016, at a time when he was serving on the Trump transition team.

But since then, Bernhardt had helped draft two major California water bills and wrote a proposed executive order for Trump on water issues – all at Westland’s behest. Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting’s stories on the issue were based on a trove of Bernhardt’s emails first obtained by the Planning and Conservation League, an environmental group.

Bernhardt, who worked as a solicitor for the Interior Department before becoming a lobbyist, never commented on the emails. Westlands contended that he was not lobbying but giving legal advice. The good-government group Campaign for Accountability asked federal prosecutors to investigate whether Bernhardt had violated lobbying laws.

Meanwhile, Democrats, led by Sen. Maria Cantwell of Washington, had sought to head off the nomination. In debate last week, Cantwell said that by nominating Bernhardt, the president was “not draining the swamp, he’s filling it,” recalling Trump’s vow to clean up corruption in Washington, D.C.

But today, Republicans heaped praise on Bernhardt. Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah said Bernhardt would be “a great addition to our government,” and Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska promised he would maintain a proper balance between conservation and development on public lands.

The vote was 53 to 43.

Lance Williams can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter: @LanceWCIR.

High Country News Classifieds
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    Eugene, Ore. nonprofit Long Tom Watershed Council is seeking a highly collaborative individual to lead a talented, dedicated team of professionals. Full-time: $77,000 - $90,000...
  • GIS SPECIALIST
    What We Can Achieve Together: The GIS Specialist provides technical and scientific support for Geographic Information System (GIS) technology, data management, and visualization internally and...
  • LOWER SAN PEDRO PROGRAM MANAGER
    What We Can Achieve Together: The Lower San Pedro Program Manager directs some or all aspects of protection, science, stewardship and community relations for the...
  • FOREST RESTORATION SPATIAL DATA MANAGER
    What We Can Achieve Together: The Forest Restoration Spatial Data Manager fills an integral role in leading the design and development of, as well as...
  • WATER PROJECTS MANAGER, SOUTHERN AZ
    What We Can Achieve Together: Working hybrid in Tucson, AZ or remote from Sierra Vista, AZ or other southern Arizona locations, the Water Projects Manager,...
  • SENIOR STAFF THERAPIST/PSYCHOLOGIST: NATIVE AMERICAN STUDENT SPECIALIST
    Counseling Services is a department strategically integrated with Health Services within the Division of Student Services and Enrollment Management. Our Mission at the Counseling Center...
  • THE NATURE CONSERVANCY IS HIRING A LOCAL INITIATIVES COORDINATOR
    The Nature Conservancy in Wyoming seeks a Local Initiatives Coordinator to join our team. We're looking for a great communicator to develop, manage and advance...
  • LAND AND WATER PROTECTION MANAGER - NORTHERN ARIZONA
    We're Looking for You: Are you looking for a career to help people and nature? Guided by science, TNC creates innovative, on-the-ground solutions to our...
  • SENIOR CLIMATE CONSERVATION ASSOCIATE
    The Greater Yellowstone Coalition (GYC) seeks a Senior Climate Conservation Associate (SCCA) to play a key role in major campaigns to protect the lands, waters,...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    The Southern Nevada Conservancy Board of Directors announces an outstanding opportunity for a creative leader to continue building this organization. SNC proudly supports Nevada's public...
  • CORTEZ COLORADO LOT FOR SALE
    Historic tree-lined Montezuma Ave. Zoned Neighborhood Business. Build your dream house or business right in the heart of town. $74,000. Southwest Realty
  • ENVIRONMENTAL AND CONSTRUCTION GEOPHYSICS
    - We find groundwater, buried debris and assist with new construction projects for a fraction of drilling costs.
  • PHILANTHROPY COORDINATOR
    Founded by sportsmen and women in 1936, the Idaho Wildlife Federation (IWF) is a statewide nonprofit dedicated to protecting, conserving, and enhancing Idaho's natural resources,...
  • STRAWBALE HOME BESIDE MONTEZUMA WELL NAT'L MONUMENT
    Straw Bale Home beside Montezuma Well National Monument. Our property looks out at Arizona fabled Mogollon Rim and is a short walk to perennial Beaver...
  • ATTORNEY AD
    Criminal Defense, Code Enforcement, Water Rights, Mental Health Defense, Resentencing.
  • LUNATEC HYDRATION SPRAY BOTTLE
    A must for campers and outdoor enthusiasts. Cools, cleans and hydrates with mist, stream and shower patterns. Hundreds of uses.
  • LUNATEC ODOR-FREE DISHCLOTHS
    are a must try. They stay odor-free, dry fast, are durable and don't require machine washing. Try today.
  • PROFESSIONAL GIS SERVICES
    Custom Geospatial Solutions is available for all of your GIS needs. Affordable, flexible and accurate data visualization and analysis for any sized project.
  • A CHILDREN'S BOOK FOR THE CLIMATE CRISIS!!
    "Goodnight Fossil Fuels!" is a an engaging, beautiful, factual and somewhat silly picture book by a climate scientist and a climate artist, both based in...
  • THE MAGICAL UNIVERSE OF THE ANCIENTS: A DESERT JOURNAL
    Bears Ears, Chaco Canyon, and other adventures in the Four Corners area. 60 photos and lively journals. Purchase hc $35 or pb $25 from bigwoodbooks.com...