April 15, 2019

Department of the Interior Deputy Inspector General Opens Investigation to Address Conflicts of Interest Complaints Against Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt

Letter comes after Senators Warren and Blumenthal pressed the Inspector General to review ethics rules violations to benefit a former client

Washington, DC - United States Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) today received a follow-up letter from the Department of the Interior Deputy Inspector General Mary Kendall stating that the Office of Inspector General (OIG) for the Department of the Interior (DOI) has received seven complaints alleging various potential conflicts of interest and other violations by then-Deputy Secretary of the Interior, David Bernhardt, and they have opened an investigation to address them.

"We have reviewed the information you provided, as well as other information readily available to us," wrote Interior Deputy Inspector General Mary Kendall. "We are continuing to gather pertinent information about the complaints and have opened an investigation to address them. We will conduct our review as expeditiously and thoroughly as practicable."

In February 2019, Senators Warren and Blumenthal expressed concern over conflicts of interest and potential ethics violations by David Bernhardt, then-DOI Acting Secretary, who is reportedly directly involved in Department decisions that roll back long-standing protections for endangered wildlife and benefit one of his former clients. 

"It's about time that the Department of the Interior opened an investigation into Secretary David Bernhardt's conflicts of interest," Senator Warren said. "He should have never been confirmed to lead the department with these outstanding ethics complaints."

Last year, Senator Warren introduced the Anti-Corruption and Public Integrity Act, a sweeping bill that would crack down on all forms of influence peddling and corruption. The bill would prevent former oil lobbyists, like Secretary Bernhardt, from running federal agencies, including those responsible for protecting our environment and interior.