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Congresswoman Betty McCollum

Representing the 4th District of Minnesota

McCollum, Udall Request Inspector General Investigate Additional Interior Department Action

October 4, 2019
Press Release
Secretary Bernhardt action appears to directly benefit a former client

Today, U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum (DFL-Minn.) and Senator Tom Udall (D-N.M.), chair and ranking member of the House and Senate Appropriations Subcommittees on the Interior, Environment and Related Agencies, sent a letter to the Inspector General for the U.S. Department of the Interior Mark Greenblatt requesting the ongoing ethics investigation into Interior Department officials be expanded to include a new action by Secretary Bernhardt that appears to directly benefit a former client.

A New York Times story on September 28, 2019, reported that the Interior Department disregarded scientific analysis by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and requested the analysis be redone with a more limited scope. This would support an action that would directly benefit Westlands Water District, a group for which Mr. Bernhardt previously served as chief lobbyist.

In the letter, the officials write:

“We…are concerned about a new allegation that Secretary Bernhardt was involved in an action not previously disclosed that appears to again benefit a former client. It is critical that the American public have confidence that any environmental review or scientific work product produced by the Department of the Interior is free from political interference and is not being directed to reach a specific conclusion or recommendation.”

A copy of the letter can be found here and below:

October 3, 2019

The Honorable Mark Lee Greenblatt
Inspector General
U.S. Department of the Interior
1849 C Street, NW
Washington, DC 20240

Dear Inspector General Greenblatt:

On March 15, 2019 we wrote to Deputy Inspector General Kendall to request an investigation of reports of ethics irregularities by senior officials at the Department of the Interior. A specific concern was an allegation that Acting Secretary Bernhardt was involved in actions taken by the Department that appeared to directly benefit a former client.

We understand this investigation is still in process and are concerned about a new allegation that Secretary Bernhardt was involved in an action not previously disclosed that appears to again benefit a former client.  This action, as reported in a New York Times article on September 28, 2019, requires examination to assure that the scientific analysis being done by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is not being subjected to political pressure. 

It is critical that the American public have confidence that any environmental review or scientific work product produced by the Department of the Interior is free from political interference and is not being directed to reach a specific conclusion or recommendation.

Therefore, we would like to request that your current investigation incorporate a review of this new allegation. 

We look forward to hearing from you soon regarding this important matter, and we appreciate your important work in providing oversight over the Department’s stewardship of public assets and resources to effectively manage the American people’s resources.

Sincerely,

Tom Udall                                                                   Betty McCollum

Ranking Member                                                        Chair

Subcommittee on the Interior,                                    Subcommittee on the Interior,

Environment and Related Agencies                           Environment and Related Agencies

United States Senate                                                   U.S. House of Representatives

 

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