Interior Secretary David Bernhardt faces an ethics investigation just four days after he was confirmed to the position, The New York Times reports.
The Interior’s Inspector General has opened an investigation into ethics complaints against Bernhardt, a former oil and agribusiness lobbyist who was confirmed last week to replace Ryan Zinke, who stepped down amid a slew of ethics scandals.
The probe comes after eight Democratic senators and four government ethics watchdogs group filed complaints against Bernhardt. The complaints include allegations revealed by the Times that Bernhardt used his previous position as deputy secretary to push a policy that benefited a former lobbying client, that he continued lobbying after signing a legal document saying he had stopped, and that he intervened to block the release of a report showing the dangerous effects of chemical pesticides on some endangered species.
Mary Kendall, the deputy inspector general, told senators in a letter that she had received seven complaints from “a wide assortment of complainants alleging various conflicts of interest and other violations” and that she had “opened an investigation to address them.”
Dems say Bernhardt shouldn’t have been confirmed:
Democrats, almost all of whom voted against Bernhardt’s confirmation, said the news confirmed the issues they warned about ahead of the vote.
“This is exactly why I wanted a delay in Bernhardt’s consideration,” Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden said in a statement. “We now have an Interior Secretary who has been on the job for one full business day and is already under investigation.”
"With Bernhardt's track record and the number of allegations against him, it's no surprise,” he added. “At least now, the American people will finally get the answers they deserve."
Bernhardt denies any wrongdoing:
Bernhardt’s spokeswoman Faith Vander Voort said in a statement that Bernhardt did not violate any ethics laws or regulations.
“Secretary Bernhardt is in complete compliance with his ethics agreement and all applicable laws, rules, and regulations,” she said. “It is important to note that the Department Ethics Office has already conducted a review of many of these accusations at Mr. Bernhardt’s request and determined that Secretary Bernhardt is in complete compliance.”