Ethics watchdog, Democratic senators call for probe of Interior chief Bernhardt’s work on water policy

An ethics watchdog group filed a complaint Thursday with the Interior Department’s Office of Inspector General, alleging that Acting Secretary David Bernhardt violated federal ethics rules by working to weaken protections for imperiled fish species and to expand California farmers’ access to water, even though he once lobbied on behalf of a massive agricultural water district that stood to benefit from the changes. “For years, Bernhardt lobbied to undermine protections for endangered species on behalf of his lobbying clients, and he continued working on the same exact issues after entering government,” said Paul Smith, vice president of Campaign Legal Center, which filed the complaint. “Bernhardt should be subject to the same high ethical standards as any other Interior employee, and the Inspector General should investigate this fully.”

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