President Donald Trump announced Monday via Twitter that he will nominate David Bernhardt for the position of secretary of the interior. Bernhardt has served as acting secretary since Ryan Zinke, who faced more than a dozen investigations into his conduct during his time as secretary, left office at the beginning of the year.
As Pacific Standard has reported, Democrats and environmental advocacy groups opposed Bernhardt's nomination as Department of the Interior (DOI) deputy secretary in April of 2017 due to his background as a lobbyist:
He has worked as a lobbyist, with clients including energy companies such as the Independent Petroleum Association of America, mining companies including Arizona's Rosemont Copper (now Hudbay Minerals), and California's Westlands Water District—for which he sued the DOI four times. Bernhardt also worked for the DOI during the George W. Bush administration.
Before the Senate confirmed him as deputy secretary in July of 2017, 150 conservation groups signed a letter of opposition, citing his conflicts of interest.
"Bernhardt is an ex-lobbyist and the ultimate D.C. swamp creature with so many potential conflicts of interest that he has to carry around a list of his former clients," Chris Saeger, executive director of public lands watchdog group the Western Values Project, said in a statement in response to Monday's news. The WVP had previously bought the domain davidbernhardt.org and filled the website with information on Bernhardt's conflicts of interest.
In light of these concerns, Bernhardt will undoubtedly face rigorous questioning at his Senate confirmation hearing. "As senators consider Bernhardt's nomination, it's crucial they remember that the ongoing investigations into Ryan Zinke's conduct intersect with policies that David Bernhardt has helped enact," Jennifer Rokala, executive director of the Center for Western Priorities, said in a statement on Monday. "If a walking conflict of interest like David Bernhardt gets confirmed, oversight and true transparency will be more important than ever."