Inspector General Investigating Ethical Misconduct by Newly Confirmed Interior Secretary David Bernhardt, Following CLC Complaint

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WASHINGTON – Today, the Office of Inspector General (OIG) for the Department of the Interior confirmed by letter that it has opened an investigation into ethical misconduct by then-Deputy Secretary of the Interior, David Bernhardt, following CLC’s complaint filed on February 28. Bernhardt was confirmed as Interior Secretary by the U.S. Senate on April 11.

“The story of David Bernhardt is a classic story of the problem with lobbyists passing through Washington’s revolving door. Today’s news confirms that Bernhardt’s conduct raises serious ethical questions, including  whether he has exploited his power to advance the interests of the lobbying groups that used to pay his salary, potentially at the expense of the public,” said Delaney Marsco, ethics counsel at CLC. “We are pleased to hear the Inspector General is investigating Bernhardt’s potential conflicts of interest. We hope the IG recommends that Bernhardt separate himself from Interior matters that may benefit his former lobbying clients for the entirety of his government service. To avoid a tenure marred by ethics scandals similar to cabinet officials like Ryan Zinke and Scott Pruitt, Bernhardt should ensure that his actions avoid even the appearance of favoritism.”

According to CLC’s complaint, before joining Interior, Bernhardt lobbied on specific provisions of a law that aimed to minimize endangered species protections and maximize water supplies for his client. Bernhardt then joined Interior and used his official authority to institutionalize the same provisions that he had lobbied on, in violation of his ethics pledge and his ethical obligations.