Published April 15, 2019
Lawmakers requested investigation into potential violations of federal ethics regulations at Interior by Bernhardt, other senior officials
WASHINGTON — Interior Secretary David Bernhardt was confirmed just last week by the U.S. Senate. This week begins with news the Interior Department’s Inspector General is investigating the secretary.
Today, U.S. Senator Tom Udall, ranking member on the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies, and U.S. Representative Betty McCollum, chair of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies, responded to the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) Office of the Inspector General (OIG) agreeing to open an investigation into whether senior DOI officials, including Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt, violated federal ethics regulations meant to prevent conflicts of interest by participating in matters concerning former clients or employers.
Udall and McCollum requested the investigation in March.
“The American public deserves to have the basic confidence that their Interior Secretary is looking out for their interests – protecting public land, species, the air and the water — and not the interests of former industry clients. The Inspector General’s investigation into Secretary Bernhardt’s extensive conflicts of interest is a necessary step to ensure that the public interest is paramount in decision-making at the Interior Department,” Udall said.
“Our federal ethics policies and procedures are in place to ensure federal officials are working for the benefit of the American people. It’s important to know that the Inspector General will be looking into whether officials at the Department of the Interior, including the newly confirmed Secretary, may have violated ethics regulations. The Department’s focus should be protecting our public lands and natural resources,” McCollum said.
The position of secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior is viewed as one of the most important federal posts to American Indians and Alaska Natives because the Interior department houses Indian Affairs, which oversees the Bureau of Indian Affairs and Bureau of Indian Education.