WASHINGTON – Former lobbying and legal clients of U.S. Interior Secretary David Bernhardt have spent nearly $30 million lobbying the federal government since the start of the Trump administration, Public Citizen showed in a new analysis today.
By examining Bernhardt’s recusals and official lobbying records, a pattern emerges that highlights the extremely close ties between the Interior Department and private-sector lobbying interests that are intent on hindering the department’s essential responsibilities.
The report found that 17 former lobbying and legal clients who were on Bernhardt’s recusal list have lobbied the federal government since the start of the Trump administration. The analysis also found $29.9 million in lobbying spending by former Bernhardt clients over the past three years. Of the 17 former clients, 14 have lobbied the Interior Department since the start of the Trump administration. The eight largest, each of which have spent more than $1 million on lobbying since the Trump administration began, were: Sempra Energy, Noble Energy, Equinor, the Independent Petroleum Association of America, Cadiz Inc., NRG Energy, Wetlands Water District and the Forest County Potawatomi Community.
“America’s lands, water and wildlife must be protected, as these national treasures are irreplaceable and priceless,” said Alan Zibel, research director of Public Citizen’s Corporate Presidency Project and the report’s author. “However, the Bernhardt-led Trump Interior Department appears to have priced access to our resources at around $30 million and counting.”
In fact, during the Trump administration, oil and gas industry lobbyists have expressed confidence that their views would receive an audience from top Interior Department officials. A top oil and gas lobbyist told a conference room audience of executives in June 2017 that the association was close to Bernhardt, then deputy secretary, and that, “We know him very well, and we have direct access to him, have conversations with him about issues ranging from federal land access to endangered species, to a lot of issues.”
“Millions in spending on lobbying have proven devastating for public lands but a gusher for oil and gas interests,” said Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen. “Industry groups’ belief in their ability to exert influence at the highest levels coincides with evidence that Bernhardt has consistently favored industry over conservation interests and public health. There appears to be no end, and no shame, in sight.”
Read the report here.