The Center for Western Priorities (CWP) appears to be a little disingenuous in its concerns about Bernhardt’s intentions, since its own emphasis has been more about political action than conservation. CWP is a project of the New Venture Fund, which is a project of the George Soros’ Open Societies Foundation.
by Marjorie Haun
Back in April, President Trump nominated David Bernhardt, a native of Rifle, Colorado who served in the Interior Department during former administrations to serve as Deputy Secretary of Interior under Ryan Zinke. The press release from Interior describes his experience this way:
“Dave Bernhardt is an excellent choice to be Deputy Secretary. After I became Secretary of the Interior, Dave was unanimously confirmed by the Senate to be the Solicitor, Interior’s highest ranking legal officer. Dave provided wide counsel based on thoroughly understanding issues being decided. He is thoughtful and fair. The Solicitor’s Office, Interior political and career staff and the Department’s diverse stakeholders respected Dave’s intellect, leadership and management skill. I commend President Trump and Secretary Zinke for selecting Dave to help manage a Department that has operations in all 50 states and many parts of the world,” said former Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne.
Bernhardt is an avid hunter and fisherman and recently served on the Board of Game and Inland Fisheries for the Commonwealth of Virginia. He has previously served as the United States Commissioner to the International Boundary Commission, U.S. and Canada.
From 2001 and 2009, he held several positions within the Department of the Interior, including serving as Solicitor. Previously he served then-Secretary Norton as a deputy solicitor, deputy chief of staff and counselor to the Secretary, and as director of congressional and legislative affairs and counselor to the Secretary. Currently, Bernhardt chairs the natural resource law practice at Brownstein, Hyatt Farber and Schreck, LLP.
Despite his sound and apparently non-partisan credentials, environmental groups seem to be alarmed by Bernhardt’s experience in defending private companies against radical special interests. Because his former clients have included oil and gas and mining corporations, the tunnel-visioned enviro groups are questioning his fitness to serve with Secretary Zinke. In May, the Denver Post reported:
Prior to that service — and then again afterward — Bernhardt worked at the Brownstein firm, a D.C. and Denver powerhouse.
His recent clients have included mining interests, energy companies and water groups and that portfolio has led some activists to question whether Bernhardt can be impartial.
“David Bernhardt is a walking conflict of interest,” said Aaron Weiss of the Center for Western Priorities, a conservation group. “If he does not recuse himself from working on issues he has profited from as a lobbyist, he will be the embodiment of the Washington swamp — taking a high-level government job to help his private sector partners cash in.”
The Center for Western Priorities (CWP) appears to be a little disingenuous in its concerns about Bernhardt’s intentions, since its own emphasis has been more about political action than conservation. CWP is a project of the New Venture Fund, which is a project of the George Soros’ Open Societies Foundation. Bernhardt’s ‘beltway’ experience is probably not far removed from that of Jennifer Rokala, the director CWP who was a staffer for uber-Left, husband to Maggie Fox of the Sierra Club, Democrat US Senator, Mark Udall.
Another enviro detractor of Bernhardt is the Western Values Project (WVP). Although WVP claims to seek a ‘balanced’ approach to energy development, it has never met a fossil-fuel initiative it didn’t oppose. The group is now suing the Interior Department over Zinke’s ongoing review of Antiquities Act abuses. Like CWP, WVP is directed not by conservation experts or scientists, but by Democrat operatives Chris Saeger, Jayson O’Neill, Andrew Gulliford, and ‘unaffiliated’ public lands lobbyist, Jason Keith.
Despite criticism from political operatives on the environmentalist Left, it appears that Bernhardt will soon take his position of Deputy Secretary of the Interior Department. On June 7, the Denver Post reported:
The Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources on Tuesday advanced the nomination of Colorado native David Bernhardt, who has been tapped by President Donald Trump for the post of deputy Interior secretary amid concerns from environmentalists.
His nomination was sent to the U.S. Senate floor on a 14-9 vote.
Interruptions by political activists and Democrats during Senate confirmation hearings did not stop Trump’s Interior nominee from receiving solid support. Colorado Senator Cory Gardner (R) tweeted his support:
— Cory Gardner (@SenCoryGardner) June 6, 2017
Perhaps in the age when the ‘environment’ has become a high-stakes political tool instead of a matter of science, it’s smart for the current administration to hire folks with a little ‘beltway’ savvy.