David Bernhardt Is a Friend of Big Business
Trump has nominated an attorney and former lobbyist who wants to weaken the Endangered Species Act to be the No. 2 person at the Interior Department, the agency that manages most federal land, including national parks and forests.
David Bernhardt is expected to be questioned by the Senate about potential conflicts of interest that include lobbying for a California water district and a Canadian company that wants to mine copper in the Santa Rita mountains of Arizona.
“In his long career taking advantage of the revolving door of special interests, Bernhardt has always sided with big business at the expense of our most imperiled wildlife,” said Brett Hartl, government affairs director at the Center for Biological Diversity.
Bernhardt is a shareholder at the Denver law firm of Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck which made about $25.2 million from federal lobbying in 2016. He previously was the top attorney at the Interior Department under President George Bush. He is an avid hunter and fisherman, and the official Interior Department announcement of his appointment features Bernhardt posing with a dead moose.
“He was extremely good at congressional strategy,” former Interior Secretary Gale Norton told The Denver Post.
Bernhardt was criticized in 2008 for saying that Endangered Species Act can’t be used to regulate sources of greenhouse gas emissions.
The Interior Department when he worked there was also the site of a series of scandals one critic said “makes the Teapot Dome look good” such as Interior employees using drugs and having sex with oil and gas company representatives. Norton was the focus of a corruption probe into how oil shale leases were awarded in Colorado, and Bernhardt was mentioned frequently in the released report. She was not prosecuted.