“The corruption is absolutely shameless.”
More than a dozen former lobbying clients of Interior Secretary David Bernhardt have spent nearly $30 million convincing the Trump administration to do the bidding of the fossil fuel industry, according to a new report by Public Citizen.
The government watchdog released its study, entitled “Bernhardt Buddies,” on Thursday after examining lobbying records and Bernhardt’s recusals due to conflicts of interest. The former oil and gas lobbyist infamously had such a long list of companies he officially had to avoid working with when he was serving as a deputy at the Interior Department, that he carried the list around on index cards.
Since Bernhardt replaced Ryan Zinke—who resigned in 2018 amid his own ethics scandals—17 of Bernhardt’s former clients have lobbied the federal government. Fifteen of those have lobbied the Interior Department, including eight which spent more than $1 million each.
“The corruption is absolutely shameless,” tweeted Public Citizen Thursday as it released the analysis.
Former clients of the oil & gas lobbyist running Trump’s Interior Dept. have spent nearly *$30 MILLION* lobbying the administration.
The corruption is absolutely shameless.https://t.co/u2hKtTnEmm
— Public Citizen (@Public_Citizen) January 16, 2020
“Millions in spending on lobbying have proven devastating for public lands but a gusher for oil and gas interests,” said Robert Weissman, the group’s president. “Industry groups’ belief in their ability to exert influence at the highest levels coincides with evidence that Bernhardt has consistently favored industry over conservation interests and public health. There appears to be no end, and no shame, in sight.”
Organizations including the Independent Petroleum Association of America and fossil fuel companies such as Sempra Energy and Noble Energy have lobbied the administration on issues including federal protections for the sage grouse—which the government slashed last year—and water preservation.
Since Bernhardt took the helm of Interior, the department has pushed to allow oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, made it more difficult to designate a species as endangered, moved the Bureau of Land Management’s headquarters to Colorado, where fossil fuel interests have easy access to the agency, and opened one million acres in California to fracking.
According to Public Citizen’s report, prior to Bernhardt’s confirmation, one oil and gas lobbyist told a room full of his colleagues that “We know [Bernhardt] very well, and we have direct access to him, have conversations with him about issues ranging from federal land access to endangered species, to a lot of issues.”
Mother Jones reporter Rebecca Leber tweeted that the long-term effects of many of the issues Bernhardt’s associates have lobbied for will be difficult to reverse by a future administration.
I think a lot about what Trump policy a new administration can reverse—regulations can always change but it will be nearly impossible to reverse all this leasing & the permanent damage to endangered species https://t.co/tBK04it4r0
— Rebecca Leber (@rebleber) January 16, 2020
“Regulations can always change but it will be nearly impossible to reverse all this leasing and the permanent damage to endangered species,” Leber wrote.
Never Trumpers fear for their safety if they dare attend CPAC: report
On Saturday, Politico profiled a handful of longtime conservatives who have criticized President Donald Trump — and the general consensus was that they feared hostility at this year's annual Conservative Political Action Conference.
One such figure was former Rep. Joe Walsh (R-IL), a Tea Party darling who has since attacked Trump for undermining the rule of law, and briefly mounted a presidential primary challenge. He attended CPAC as a guest of comedian Trevor Noah, and attendees who saw him seemed conflicted. "Torn between catching up with an old colleague and being singled out by observers as talking to a Trump foe, they split the difference — and instead kept asking him how his wife was doing," wrote Tina Nguyen.
Walkouts as Roman Polanski wins best director at French Oscars
Roman Polanski won best director for "An Officer and a Spy" at a fractious ceremony for the French Oscars, the Cesars, that ended in walkouts and recrimination in Paris early Saturday.
The entire French academy had been forced to resign earlier this month amid fury that the veteran -- wanted in the US for the statutory rape of a 13-year-old girl in 1977 -- had topped the list of nominations.
Protesters chanting "Lock up Polanski!" tried to storm the theatre where the ceremony was being held before being pushed back by police firing tear gas.
And France's Culture Minister Franck Riester had warned that giving the maker of "Rosemary's Baby" a Cesar would be "symbolically bad given the stance we must take against sexual and sexist violence".
Trump accuses Democrats of coronavirus ‘hoax’ as confirmed cases in US gather pace
President Donald Trump accused Democrats of a new “hoax” over criticism of his handling of the coronavirus threat, as US health officials reported Friday a fourth case of novel coronavirus of unknown origin, indicating the disease was spreading in the country.
The latest case is a boy under 18 in Washington State who tested "presumptive positive" and is currently in home isolation in Snohomish County. The high school he attends will be shut until March 3 while it is deep cleaned, the Washington State Department of Health said.
A positive test is treated as "presumptive" until the results have been confirmed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.