Walking, Talking Conflict of Interest

David-BernhardtHis name is David Bernhardt, and he is Trump’s latest pick to head the Department of the Interior, since Ryan Zinke resigned last year in the spotlight of several ethics probes.  Zinke was bad enough … Bernhardt, if confirmed by the Senate, may well be worse.  Bernhardt has been serving as Deputy Secretary of the Interior since August 2017, and thus has been acting secretary since Zinke’s departure.

Where to even start?  This guy is, like so many of Trump’s other cabinet choices, the worst possible candidate for the job!  First, he is a former oil lobbyist, which sets up potential conflicts of interest in itself.  If confirmed, he will become one of two former fossil fuel lobbyists overseeing the nation’s top environmental agencies. The other is Andrew Wheeler, a former coal lobbyist who heads the Environmental Protection Agency.  Between them, these two are in a position to cause much destruction to our environment.

As a partner in the law firm Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, Bernhardt lobbied for the oil companies Cobalt International Energy and Samson Resources. His legal clients included the Independent Petroleum Association of America, which represents dozens of oil companies, and Halliburton Energy Services, the oil and gas extraction firm that was led by Dick Cheney before he became vice president to George W. Bush.

Thus far, while overseeing the Department of Interior, Bernhardt has …

  • Put forth a plan that opens up more land to oil and gas drilling than any other single policy action by the Trump administration, while at the same time stripping away protections from about nine million acres of wild life habitat.
  • Put forth a plan that would allow the federal government to lease almost any part of the United States coastline to oil and gas companies for offshore drilling.
  • During last year’s 35-day government shutdown, Bernhardt managed to obtain approval for 15 new leases for drilling on public lands as well as 71 new permits for offshore drilling. More than 50 recipients of the offshore drilling permits were companies that sit on the board of directors of the National Ocean Industries Association, a former client of Mr. Bernhardt’s. (Note that while his department is also responsible for conservation, maintaining national parks and permitting renewable energy programs, none of those functions were operative during the shutdown)
  • Intervened to block the release of a scientific report revealing the threat presented by three widely used pesticides to hundreds of endangered species (See New York Times investigative report). Bernhardt claims the NYT article is “not even close to true”, however I would disagree, knowing full well the integrity with which the Times do their research.
  • Has worked to loosen key provisions of the Endangered Species Act and to weaken safety and environmental rules on oil and gas drilling equipment.
  • Proposed a budget that would cut funding for the National Park Service by nearly $500 million, cut the budget for the Fish and Wildlife Service by $267 million, as well as cuts to other services including wildfire management (remember last year’s wildfires in California?)

Bernhardt’s confirmation hearing was held in the Senate on Thursday.  Predictably, he was praised by republican senators.

“David Bernhardt is an honest man who puts all his cards on the table and keeps his word. He is a champion of conservation. There is zero question that Mr. Bernhardt is qualified to do this job.” – Senator Cory Gardner, Colorado  (An “honest” man???  HAH!!!  Trump would never nominate an honest man!)

It should be noted that Senator Gardner has received $47,000 in campaign donations from Bernhardt’s former lobbying firm.

“I intend to move Mr. Bernhardt’s nomination as expeditiously as possible. He is ready for this job and has demonstrated he can handle everything it entails.” – Senator Lisa Murkowski, Alaska (How much money did you receive from Bernhardt’s former lobbying firm, Ms. Murkowski???)

However, the democrats in the senate were a bit more discriminating.  Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon mentioned Bernhardt’s blocking of the previously mentioned scientific report, saying …

“Mr. Bernhardt, you came to my office to tell me that you were the guy who stood up for ethics in the George W. Bush administration. You asked to come to my office to say your ethics are unimpeachable. But these documents make it look like you’re just another corrupt official. Why would you come to my office to lie to me about your ethics? Just like Julie MacDonald, you meddled in the science.”

Environmental groups are speaking out against Bernhardt’s confirmation as well.

David Bernhardt“Bernhardt got this nomination as a reward for months of work cramming America’s natural heritage into a wood chipper. He’s already done more damage to our environment than anyone else in Interior Department history. Confirming him as Interior secretary would be a boon to polluters and a colossal disaster for our public lands and endangered species.” – Kieran Suckling, executive director of the Center for Biological Diversity

“With nearly two dozen former clients that have business before the agency, David Bernhardt is a walking conflict of interest who is uniquely unfit to serve as Interior Secretary.” – Jennifer Rokala, executive director of the Center for Western Priorities.

Three Greenpeace activists donned ‘swamp monster’ masks as they sat in the audience at the hearings …

swamp-monster-1          swamp-monster-2

Perhaps Washington state Governor Jay Inslee said it best …

“Let’s not put big oil in charge of the Interior Department. Today’s Senate confirmation hearing shows that oil lobbyist David Bernhardt is dangerous to America’s public lands and waters and can’t be trusted to be our Interior Secretary. Big oil is literally laughing about the access they have to this administration. His answers today demonstrated his deep conflict of interest and his unwillingness to come clean about his record of mothballing an analysis of dangerous toxic chemicals. The Senate should reject this deeply flawed nomination and prevent this ethics nightmare.”

In the end, none of his conflicts of interest will matter to the republican-dominated, boot-licking, ass-kissing senate who are nearly certain to confirm Bernhardt, but it should matter to We the People, for we are the ones who will suffer from the destruction of our home, planet Earth.

31 thoughts on “Walking, Talking Conflict of Interest

  1. I have been reading articles about David Bernhardt for some time now, one was in EcoWatch and other environmental sources as well. None of my reading has shown him to be an appropriate person to head the Department of the Interior. Which just about makes certain that another swamp creature will be confirmed by the pathetic Republican Senators, so in need of Trump’s good will to survive. When will this end? Our country and the planet has suffered long enough and they are hell bent on destruction! Thank-you!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Like so many of Trump’s other cabinet choices (think Betsy DeVos, Andrew Wheeler, Scott Pruitt, Rick Perry ….) Bernhardt is just about the worst possible choice for the position. But, I’m betting money that he will be confirmed. Sigh.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Jill, in the movie “Vice” about Dick Cheney’s oversized role in the younger Bush White House, it portrayed how the former oil industry executive parlayed his role into multiple changes that benefitted his industry. Today, he is likely envious of how integrated the industry is in the Trump White House. Using Gronda’s post on the evangelicalism in the same building, that is window dressing. Quite simply, if Trump throws a few bones toward the evangelicals, NRA, and white supremacists, he can do anything he wants to let the fossil fuel industry to run rough shod. And, the scary thing, his followers have little idea he is doing this. That may be his true genius. Distract while he steals. Keith

    Liked by 3 people

    • Very astute insights. Could it be that Trump is a master manipulator pretending to be an oaf? It seems he has that unethical disposition of a political maverick – to make money at any/ all cost, even if it means annihilation.

      Liked by 2 people

      • I was watching a mini-series called “Mrs. Wilson,” who is learning that her just deceased husband was a spy and had at least two more wives and families.. His spy handler said he was a prodigious liar, who lied so much he said things to meet his needs. That is Donald Trump in a nutshell. His plan is to “say anything” to get what he wants. Keith

        Liked by 4 people

      • Some people have thought so, but personally I see him as an uneducated buffoon. He cannot string an intelligent sentence together, and his understanding of the way government works, the way in which nations are intertwined, is nil. I think his ‘success’ stems from being lucky, being a bully, and having been born into wealth. Had his father not been wealthy and able to subsidize Trump’s initial ventures, I think he’d be digging ditches … or selling snake oil in a carnival!

        Liked by 3 people

    • I haven’t seen that movie … I should add it to my list. You are quite right … as long as he gives them a few crumbs, and tells them what they want to hear, he can get by with murder … quite literally, when you consider what he is attempting to do to health care. And I agree … the scary part is that his base do not comprehend what he is doing to the country, and to them. Rather like the tax cuts for the wealthy … people are just beginning to realize, as they file their income tax returns, that they really didn’t get a tax cut after all.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I may need to stop reading your posts, Jill. I get so effing pissed at the mockery with which the Trump administration (I retch as I type those two words) approaches everything and the blind latitude given by the GOP and the Trumpetters. About thirty years ago, I told an airman who worked for me that America was going to forget World War II. I predicted it would happen without twenty years. They were going to forget why we fought and why alliances for defense were established. Although I expected the national amnesia, it’s shocking to see it spill out in such wanton greed and hateful ignorance. It’s difficult to reconcile their desires to increase military power while they fear and despise the government, try to roll back the safety net aspect of it while cutting ties to the alliances, which, if not perfect, attempted to keep the world balanced.

    It isn’t a surprise, however. Most people learn the broadest historic reference. Most fail to apply any critical thinking to what they hear or learn, and most are searching for a way out, no matter who or what’s destroyed in the process.

    Take care, M

    Liked by 4 people

    • My friend … if you need to step back from my posts, I will miss you, but I DO understand. Others have done the same, but pop in for the music posts or Jolly Monday and Good People on Wednesday. I wish I could write more cheerful, uplifting posts, but I somehow feel that I have to shine a light on the injustices and horrors that are our reality today. But to the point … you must do what you need to in order to keep your sanity … so if you need to step away, I love you still, consider you a friend, and wish you the best that life has to offer.

      You are right, and as I have said for years, we fail to learn the lessons of history. It is rather like a child who despite his mother’s story about being burned as a youngster while playing around the stove, must try it for himself. We seem incapable of learning the lessons of others. What frightens me most today, I think, is the people who ignore what is happening, saying that “somehow it will all work out”, or “God will take care of it”. If we don’t all open our eyes soon, I fear for the human race.

      You take care too, Michael! And … hugs!

      Liked by 2 people

      • No, I was speaking from one of those moments of frustration. You write the posts that I would write were I not so selfish with my writing time that I pursue my novels.

        I can’t turn my eyes away from these things no more than you. I’d rather know than be ignorant. My wife and I often lament that we can read, remember, and think, and wonder about how much better life would be for us if we could but live in blissful ignorance. We know such people. They seem so happy-go-lucky.

        I think we will open our eyes, or our eyes will be opened. Our eyes are always eventually opened, but it’s usually for a brief, shiny moment. Battles are fought, progress is made, and then things settle down again, and eyes close. That’s why history repeats itself. No, it’s not American history being repeated, but human history. One race must claim to be better and will kill, repress, and exterminate others to prove themselves superior.

        Now I’m just running on. I’ll continue to run you — of course I will — but once in a while, the bitterness, frustration, and weariness will speak to me, and I’ll write a little comment.

        Cheers, friend. And thanks for the hugs.

        Liked by 3 people

        • Oh I feel your frustration and I backed off for awhile….

          All I can think now is stupid stupid people…they will destroy everything because of stupid crazed beliefs either in religion or politics.

          I sit back and watch…see stuff on the news that is unbelievable, horrible, insane and out of control.

          Sometimes I’m at the point where I almost snicker at the total ridiculousness of it all….the absurdity. I can only hope the joke is on us and nature will do just fine without us someday.

          There’s a show you can stream on the History Channel called “Life after Man”…it takes a few thousand years or more but eventually all trace is gone and the earth heals and flora and fauna return and can finally live in balance and all is well…

          That is the long view I take now and what can keep me sane at times. It’s no longer about us…we have passed that point, I’m afraid.

          Liked by 3 people

          • I think that this must be the series “Life After People” that was on the History Channel starting with the 2 hour special in 2008. My eldest daughter was fascinated with both seasons that followed and ended in about 2010. She later purchased the DVD’s of the special and both seasons on Amazon some years ago, which is when I watched it. It is astounding and worth the time to watch each episode. Thank-you!

            Liked by 3 people

        • Ahhh … I misunderstood … I’m glad, for I would have missed you. We each have our place … mine is this, yours is you novels which I hope someday to read. It is true that in this Reign of Trump, the new is all-consuming and depressing, and I am not sure that it has an end. But what I do know is that if we all get tired and let it slide, this nation will be doomed. Like you, I know many who are turning a blind eye, preferring to use social media to post pictures of their lunch and the new outfit they bought last week. It is, I suppose, a happy place to be, but I cannot go there. Roger defines it as Fluffy Bunny World … an apt name, I think. When you get frustrated, always feel free to do a bit of venting on this blog … we all share your angst. Cheers my friend!

          Liked by 2 people

  4. Hello Jill. Seems the grifting and graft continues are a furious pace. They are selling off America as fast as they can to the highest bidder. No future president can fix what they break in this manner as you can not put the toothpaste back in the tube so to speak. Why they want to destroy the beauty of the country for a short term money gain I can not understand. Hugs

    Liked by 2 people

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