Trump Interior Deputy Nominee Bernhardt has Serious Ethics & Conflict Issues

For Immediate Release: June 5, 2017
Contact: John McManus, Golden Gate Salmon Association, 650-218-8650
Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, Restore the Delta, 209-479-2053

Press Release: 
Trump Nominee for Deputy Secretary of the Interior Has Serious Legal, Ethical, & Conflicts-of-Interest Issues


WASHINGTON, D.C. – A coalition of California fishing, conservation, and environmental groups sent a letter today outlining their concerns over the nomination of David Bernhardt to serve as Deputy Secretary of Interior. The letter was sent to Senators Lisa Murkowski and Maria Cantwell, the Chair and Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, respectively.

Bernhardt’s nomination has been the subject of editorials across the state of California including the Los Angeles Times, the San Francisco Chronicle the Sacramento Beeand the San Jose Mercury.

The coalition letter sent today outlines conflict-of-interest concerns about Mr. Bernhardt dating back to 2008 when he served as Interior Solicitor. The groups claim recently revealed documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act reveal that Bernhardt colluded with powerful water districts in California  “…to redirect federal appropriations to pay their costs of the quarter of a billion dollar planning effort…” for the controversial Delta Tunnels proposal in California.

Because of this redirection of federal dollars, “The taxpayer gets the bill instead of the water contractors,” who were supposed to pay the entire bill for the planning, construction, and operation of the Delta Tunnels project.

“Creating this invisible funding mechanism that benefits a few federal water contractors at the expense of the American taxpayer, as well as other Federal and non-Federal water contractors, mandates full disclosure and further investigation. Given the pending nomination, Mr. Bernhardt's role in this deception of Congress, water users and the public requires a full examination.”

The coalition also wants a full accounting of Mr. Bernhardt’s later activities as a lobbyist for the Westlands Water District.

“From public records and U.S. lobbying reports, Westlands has paid $1,714,291 to the Brownstein firm, of which Mr. Bernhardt is a partner.  This includes the $189,291 paid to the firm prior to Mr. Bernhardt registering as the Westlands' lobbyist…

“Before confirming Mr. Bernhardt, as Deputy Secretary of Interior, with jurisdiction over this federal largess, it is critical to understand whether federal laws were broken, twisted or bent while Mr. Bernhardt was Solicitor and again while employed by Westlands.  Limited disclosures to date reveal that millions of taxpayer dollars have gone to benefit Westlands that should have been deposited in the Federal Treasury.  Before approving this nomination, to be in charge of the Nation’s water, minerals and public lands, a comprehensive investigation is required.”

Read the letter sent to the Senators.


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