Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, July 20, 2017

Contact: Noah Greenwald, (503) 484-7495,

Trump's Interior Pick May Have Violated Federal Lobbying Disclosure Act

David Bernhardt's Possible Violations, Industry Ties Undermine Fitness for Deputy Secretary of Interior

WASHINGTON— The watchdog group Campaign for Accountability filed a complaint today with the U.S. Attorney for the District of Colombia alleging that Trump's pick for deputy secretary of the Interior may have violated the federal Lobbying Disclosure Act. The nominee, David Bernhardt, continued to lobby for the Westlands Water District months after dropping his registration as a lobbyist in November to run Trump's transition team at Interior.

The Center for Biological Diversity is joining the Campaign for Accountability in calling for a delay in Bernhardt's confirmation by the Senate until the allegations can be fully investigated. Currently, the vote on his nomination is scheduled for Monday.

“These disturbing revelations should slam the brakes on this confirmation,” said Noah Greenwald, the Center's endangered species director. “Bernhardt's close ties to the very industries he'd be charged with regulating at Interior are bad enough. But now that it appears he may have violated federal lobbying law, this appointment should be a sunk ship.”

Perhaps no person better exemplifies the revolving door between special interests and the Trump administration than Bernhardt. Prior to joining Trump's team, Bernhardt worked at the law firm of Brownstein, Hyatt, Farber and Schreck, where he represented mining, Big Oil and agricultural interests.

On behalf of the Westlands Water District, the nation's largest irrigation district, Bernhardt lobbied for legislation to weaken water quality in the California Bay Delta to the detriment of endangered species. 

According to documents obtained by the campaign, it now appears that this representation continued after Bernhardt surrendered his lobbying registration and joined the administration.

“Bernhardt's apparent continued lobbying on behalf of the water district shows that he can't be trusted to manage endangered species and public lands for the benefit of all Americans,” said Greenwald.  “Trump promised to drain the swamp, but instead he's filling it with the worst cast of anti-environmental, corporate stooges in history.”

If confirmed, Bernhardt will have authority over more than 1,500 endangered species and millions of acres of public lands. Bernhardt served as the department's top lawyer during the Bush administration, authoring several policies that sharply limited protections for endangered species. One policy even precluded species like the polar bear from protections against greenhouse gases, the primary threat to the survival of the species.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.3 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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