And NC's fight against offshore drilling takes a punch in the gut:
The Senate vote set this week on the confirmation of David Bernhardt as Interior Secretary is making waves in North Carolina. Bernhardt took the helm at Interior after the resignation of Ryan Zinke, but faced tough questions about his past as an oil and gas lobbyist before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee voted 14-6 to send the nomination to the floor for a vote.
Groups in North Carolina have asked the state's U.S. senators to probe the Trump administration's recent support of seismic drilling. They say under Bernhardt's leadership, the agency charged with protecting national resources could permit harm to North Carolina's coastlines.
Republicans in general, and Senate Republicans in particular, no longer even attempt to avoid conflicts of interest in who runs government agencies. Between Wheeler at the EPA and Bernhardt at Interior, the private sector foxes are literally running the Federal Government henhouse from their Boardrooms. And it's also plain (as day) that Bernhardt has no grasp on ethics whatsoever, since he continued lobbying right up to the minute he was ushered into the Interior Department:
The bill for Mr. Bernhardt’s services, dated March 2017 and labeled “Federal Lobbying,” shows, along with other newly disclosed documents, Mr. Bernhardt working closely with the Westlands Water District as late as April 2017, the month Mr. Trump nominated him to his current job, deputy interior secretary. In November 2016, Mr. Bernhardt had filed legal notice with the federal government formally ending his status as a lobbyist.
A New York Times investigation this year revealed how Mr. Bernhardt made it a priority at the Interior Department to promote policies long sought by Westlands, including a weakening of Endangered Species Act protections for a rare fish. Those changes would have led to the release of vast amounts of water from the delicate ecosystem of the San Francisco Bay Delta for irrigation of commercial farmland.
The documents, including the March 2017 “Federal Lobbying” invoice sent to Westlands by Mr. Bernhardt’s former firm, were obtained under California open-records law by the office of the California attorney general, Xavier Becerra, and by the environmental advocacy group Pacific Advocates. They were reviewed by The New York Times.
The invoice itemizes the costs of services described as “Westlands Trip,” taken by Mr. Bernhardt in late January and early February 2017 from Washington through Denver, Sacramento and Chicago before heading back to Washington.
It includes a charge of $2,432.68 for Mr. Bernhardt’s travel, as well as a $25,000 charge “for professional services rendered” in February 2017. During the previous year, a period when Mr. Bernhardt was an official registered lobbyist, Westlands paid his firm a $25,000 monthly fee.
So not only are Senate Republicans ignoring his gross conflicts of interest, they're also ignoring the fact Bernhardt falsified Federal government disclosure documents. Might as well not even hold hearings if you're going to flat-out ignore the very things the Committee is tasked with performing "oversight" on. Sheesh.