Newly appointed Secretary of the Inner surface David Bernhardt is usually the latest member of President Donald Trump’s Cabinet to come under investigation by his own agency’s watchdog.
The Inner surface Department’s Office of Inspector General on Monday confirmed which which has opened an investigation into allegations of conflict of interest as well as some other violations during Bernhardt’s tenure as the agency’s deputy secretary.
The confirmation comes less than a week after the Senate confirmed Bernhardt to his position. which keeps the spotlight on the nation’s top steward of public lands, whose past lobbying for energy as well as agribusiness clients drew scrutiny through Democrats during confirmation hearings.
The probe is usually the latest to target a member of Trump’s administration, which has been dogged by allegations of conflict of interest as well as self-dealing. Similar investigations paved the way for the departure of Bernhardt’s predecessor, Ryan Zinke, as well as the exit of Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt.
The disclosure was made in a letter to Rep. Betty McCollum, D-Minn., as well as Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M. Last month, the lawmakers asked the inspector general to look into whether there was anything improper about Bernhardt’s participation in regulatory activity which affected former clients. Bernhardt previously chaired the natural resources practice at lobbying as well as law firm Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck.
Deputy Inspector General Mary Kendall told the lawmakers which the office “has received seven complaints, including yours, through a wide assortment of complainants as well as have opened an investigation to address them.”
McCollum as well as Udall requested an investigation following a fresh York Times report on Bernhardt’s involvement rolling back wildlife protections, which would likely benefit his former clients inside the California farming industry.
The Times later reported which Bernhardt continued doing work for a former client, the Westlands Water District, several months after affirming he had stopped lobbying. An Inner surface Department spokesperson told the Times the work did not qualify as “regulated lobbying activity.”
McCollum as well as Udall hailed the inspector general’s investigation as an important step in safeguarding the public interest, federal lands as well as the nation’s natural resources.
“The American public deserves to hold the basic confidence which their Inner surface Secretary is usually looking out for their interests — protecting public land, species, the air as well as the water — as well as not the interests of former industry clients,” Udall said in a statement.
An Inner surface spokesperson said Bernhardt “is usually in complete compliance with his ethics agreement as well as all applicable laws, rules, as well as regulations.”
“Secretary Bernhardt is usually hopeful the Inspector General will expeditiously complete a review of the facts associated with the questions raised by Democratic Members of Congress as well as DC political organizations,” press secretary Faith Vander Voort said in a statement.
The Inner surface Department’s portfolio includes overseeing drilling as well as mining on government-owned land. which makes Bernhardt a key figure in executing Trump’s effort to cut red tape as well as promote energy production as well as exports.
The investigation illustrates the risk of appointing former lobbyists to regulate as well as interact with the industries they once represented. Pruitt’s successor as EPA administrator, Andrew Wheeler, is usually a former coal lobbyist. The EPA’s assistant administrator for the Office of Air as well as Radiation, William Wehrum, fought for years to roll back air pollution rules on behalf of energy as well as chemicals clients.