On Thursday, The New York Times reported that David Bernhardt, President Donald Trump’s acting Secretary of the Interior and nominee to lead the agency permanently, continued to do lobbying work even after he filed the paperwork with the federal government to deregister as a lobbyist:
The bill for Mr. Bernhardt’s services, dated March 2017 and labeled “Federal Lobbying,” shows, along with other documents, Mr. Bernhardt working closely with the Westlands Water District as late as April 2017, the month Mr. Trump nominated him to his current job, deputy interior secretary. In November 2016, Mr. Bernhardt had filed legal notice with the federal government formally ending his status as lobbyist.ADVERTISEMENT
Westlands, a powerful California agribusiness group, was one of Mr. Bernhardt’s main lobbying and legal clients between 2011 and 2016. In that time, Westlands paid Mr. Bernhardt’s firm $1.3 million for lobbying services. A New York Times investigation this year revealed how Mr. Bernhardt made it a priority at the Interior Department to promote policies long sought by Westlands, including a weakening of Endangered Species Act protections for an imperiled fish. Those changes would have freed more water from the San Francisco Bay Area for irrigation.
Bernhardt denies that he acted improperly, saying that the paperwork identifying this compensation as for lobbying services was mislabeled.
Trump tapped Bernhardt, a former oil executive, to replace former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, who resigned at the end of last year amid a hailstorm of investigations into his alleged personal misuse of taxpayer money, attack retaliation against federal employees, and potentially improper land deals.