David Bernhardt

"a walking conflict of Interest" - Rep. Jared Huffman (D-CA)
Position: 
Shareholder at the Brownstein Hyatt Farber and Schreck
Biography: 

David Bernhardt was raised in Colorado and went to school at his local college, University of Northern Colorado. After graduating in 1990, he went on to get a J.D. from George Washington University Law School.  

From 1993 to 1998, Mr. Bernhardt worked for the then U.S. Representative Scott McInnis of Colorado. In his position, he managed the water rights conflict with the Ute Indian tribe. When a settlement was reached, it was largely criticized for its benefits for project developers instead of appeasing the Ute tribe.

From 1998 through 2001, Mr. Bernhardt was an associate at Brownstein LLC, a law firm. He gave up his position when he transitioned into government employment in 2001. 

Mr. Bernhardt filled many posts for the Department of the Interior (DOI). In order of importance they include; Deputy Solicitor, Deputy Chief of Staff, Counselor of the Secretary of the Interior, and Director of the Office of Congressional and Legislative Affairs. In 2006, he was confirmed as the Solicitor of the Department of the Interior - the third highest ranked position in the DOI. The following year, President Bush appointed Mr. Bernhardt to lead the International Boundary Commission – the commission in charge of matters involving the US/Canadian border. 

In 2009, Mr. Bernhardt became a Shareholder at the Brownstein Hyatt Farber and Schreck law firm, a position he still holds today. In 2013, Mr. Bernhardt was appointed the Chair of Brownstein’s Energy, Environment and Resource Strategies department. The department is composed of lawyers with experience working with federal agencies and congressional committees that specialize in energy and natural resource development. The department offers legal, lobbying and strategic services for its clients. He holds a partnership with the law firm pays him an annual $950,000, in addition to his annual corporate distribution of $150,000.

Since 2009, Bernhardt was separately paid by 12 companies which specialize in some regard in the oil, natural gas, mining, or water industries for legal services. See below for a detailed breakdown.

In 2012, Bernhardt became a Board Member for Bernhardt Brothers Land and Cattle LLC, the Virginia Board of Game and Inland Fisheries, and the Center for Environmental Science Accuracy and Reliability (CESAR).

On April 28th, 2017, Mr. Bernhardt was nominated for Deputy Secretary of the Department of the Interior (DOI) – the second highest ranking position in the DOI. He is subject to the approval of the Senate’s Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. 

Evidence: 

All Brownstein HYatt Farber and Schreck Energy, Environment and Resource Strategies Clients

Oil and Natural Gas Companies and Trade Groups

  1. Halliburton Energy Services (2011-2013)
  2. Access Industries (2011)
    • Mr. Bernhardt lobbied for Access Industries on the topic of “Natural Resources/ Energy” in 2011.
    • While Mr. Bernhardt worked at Brownstein, Access Industries paid Brownstein for lobbying $1,430,000. Through the following payments $30,000 (2017), $200,000 (2016), $240,000 (2015), $240,000 (2014), $240,000 (2013), 240,000 (2012), and 240,000 (2011).
  3. Samson Resources Company (2012-2013)
    • Mr. Bernhardt was paid privately for “legal services” by Samson Resources Company in 2013 and 2012.
    • Mr. Bernhardt lobbied for Samson Resources on the topic of “Natural Resources”. He led all lobbying efforts made by Brownstein on behalf of Samson Resources in 2013 and 2012. 
  4. Cobalt International Energy (2010-2013)
    • Mr. Bernhardt lobbied for Cobalt Energy on the topic of “Natural Resources/ Energy”. He led all lobbying efforts made by Brownstein on behalf of Cobalt International Energy in 2013, 2012, 2011, and 2010.
    • While Mr. Bernhardt worked at Brownstein, Cobalt International Energy paid Brownstein for lobbying $2,940,000. Through the following payments $90,000 (2017), $370,000 (2016), $440,000 (2015), $460,000 (2014), $560,000 (2013), $560,000 (2012), $400,000 (2011), and $430,000 (2010).
  5. Ur Energy USA, Inc. (2009-2012)  
    • Mr. Bernhardt was paid privately for “legal services” by Ur Energy USA, Inc.
  6. Targa Resources Company LLC
    • Mr. Bernhardt was paid privately for “legal services” by Targa Resources Company LLC for an unknown time frame.
  7. Noble Energy
    • Mr. Bernhardt was paid privately for “legal services” by Noble Energy for an unknown time frame.
  8. Sempra Energy
    • Mr. Bernhardt was paid privately for “legal services” by Sempra Energy for an unknown time frame.
  9. Taylor Energy Company LLC
    • Mr. Bernhardt was paid privately for “legal services” by Taylor Energy Company LLC for an unknown time frame.
    • While Mr. Bernhardt worked at Brownstein, Taylor Energy Company LLC paid Brownstein $50,000. Through the following payments $30,000 (2017) and $20,000 (2016).
  10. NRG Energy, Inc.
    • Mr. Bernhardt was paid privately for “legal services” by NRG Energy for an unknown time frame.
  11. Strata Production (2010)
    • Mr. Bernhardt lobbied for Strata Production on the topic of “Energy” in 2010.
  12. Freeport LNG Expansion (2010)
    • Mr. Bernhardt lobbied for Freeport LNG Expansion on the topic of “Energy”. He led all lobbying efforts made by Brownstein on behalf of Freeport LNG in 2010.
  13. Independent Petroleum Association of America
    • Mr. Bernhardt was paid privately for “legal services” by Independent Petroleum Association of America for an unknown time frame.
  14. Colorado Oil and Gas Association
    • Chair of the Energy, Environment and Resource Strategies department while they successfully stuck down the Longmont, Colorado’s ban on fracking and Fort Collins, Colorado’s five-year moratorium on fracking. Bernhardt led the 3 person litigation team.
  15. WPX Energy
    • While Mr. Bernhardt worked at Brownstein, WPX Energy paid Brownstein $510,000 for lobbying. $30,000 (2017), $120,000 (2016), $120,000 (2015), $120,000 (2014), and $120,000 (2013). 
  16. Lario Oil and Gas
    • While Mr. Bernhardt worked at Brownstein, Lario Oil and Gas paid Brownstein $90,000 (2015).
  17. PDVSA (Petroleum of Venezuela)
    • While Mr. Bernhardt worked at Brownstein, PDVSA paid Brownstein $2,109,000. Through the following payments $540,000 (2016), 1,080,000 (2015) and $489,000 (2014).
  18. Spotted Hawk Development LLC
    • While Mr. Bernhardt worked at Brownstein, Spotted Hawk Development paid Brownstein $280,000. Through the following payments $30,000 (2016), $120,000 (2015), $120,000 (2014), and $10,000 (2013).
  19. Statoil ASA
    • While Mr. Bernhardt worked at Brownstein, Statoil ASA paid Brownstein $960,000. Through the following payments $60,000 (2017), $240,000 (2016), $240,000 (2015), $240,000 (2014), and $180,000 (2013).
    • Specifically, Brownstein lobbied for Statoil Gulf Services on behalf of Statoil ASA.

Mining Companies

  1. Rosemont Copper Company (2011-2014, and 1st quarter 2015)
    • David Bernhardt represents Rosemont Copper Company, a copper mining company seeking mining rights for the Santa Rita Mountains in Arizona. The creation of such mine will pollute both water and air in the area, hurting a community which relies heavily on outdoor recreation and eco-tourism. 
    • David Bernhardt lobbied for Rosemont Copper Company on a “Natural Resources” topic. He led all lobbying efforts made by Brownstein on behalf of Rosemont Copper Company in 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, and 2011
    • Mr. Bernhardt was paid privately for “legal services” by Rosemont Copper Company for an unknown time frame.
    • While Mr. Bernhardt worked at Brownstein, Rosemont Copper Company paid Brownstein $1,760,000. Through the following payments $240,000 (2016), $240,000 (2015), $290,000 (2014), $270,000 (2013), $360,000 (2012), and $360,000 (2011).
  2. American West Potash LLC (2012-2014)
    • Mr. Bernhardt was paid privately for “legal services” by American West Potash between 2012 and 2014.

Water Companies

  1. Cadiz, Inc.
    • David Bernhardt represents Cadiz, Inc., a water company seeking access to the aquifer under the arid Mojave Desert which scientists predict will have dramatic consequences for the Mojave National Preserve.
    • While Mr. Bernhardt worked at Brownstein, Cadiz, Inc. paid Brownstein $2,750,000. Through the following payments $110,000 (2017), $440,000 (2016), $440,000 (2015), $440,000 (2014), $440,000 (2013), $400,000 (2012), $440,000 (2011), and $40,000 (2010). 
  2. Westlands Water District (2011-2016)
    • Mr. Bernhardt lobbied for Westlands Water District on the topic of “Natural Resources”. He led all lobbying efforts made by Brownstein on behalf of Westlands Water District in 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012 and 2011.
    • While Mr. Bernhardt worked at Brownstein, Westlands Water District paid Brownstein $1,505,000. Through the following payments $70,000 (2017), $310,000 (2016), $245,000 (2015), $240,000 (2014), $240,000 (2013), $240,000 (2012), and $160,000 (2011).
  3. Garrison Diversion Irrigation District
    • Mr. Bernhardt was paid privately for “legal services” by Garrison Diversion Irrigation District for an unknown time frame.
  4. Otay Water District (2011)
    • Mr. Bernhardt lobbied for Otay Water District on the topic of “Natural Resources” in 2011.
    • While Mr. Bernhardt worked at Brownstein, Otay Water District paid Brownstein $120,000. Through the following payments $40,000 (2013), $40,000 (2012), and $40,000 (2011).

Learn more about Mr. Bernhardt’s personal lobbying from his two Financial Disclosures: Senate Disclosure and DOI Financial Disclosure
Learn more about Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, LLC lobbying and their specific clients. 
Learn more about context of Mr. Bernhardt’s Financial Disclosures.

Various Activity in Numerous Positions at the Department of the Interior from 2001 through 2009

In 2001, Mr. Bernhardt rewrote official scientific findings on the impacts of Arctic drilling on caribou published by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Then, he used the edited report as proof a lack of ecological impacts from Arctic drilling .

Later in 2001, he led the effort for oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. During Senate testimony, he ignored the DOI’s U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s warnings of the ecological impacts and instead quoted the opinions of a BP funded report.

In 2007, when then Deputy Assistant Secretary Julie MacDonald likewise edited a scientific report by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, he stood by her when she was forced to resign for violating the law and making “the science fit the policy”.

Board Member of the Center for Environmental Science Accuracy and Reliability (CESAR) from 2012 to 2017.

CESAR uses the Endangered Species Act to pervert conservation legislation for company profit.

In 2014, CESAR sued multiple employees of the Department of the Interior, claiming they failed to comply with the Endangered Species Act, with regards to salmon, sturgeon and smelt in the Tuolumne and San Joaquin rivers, with respect to the Hetch-Hetchy Project. The Hetch-Hetchy Project diverts water from the Tuolumne River dam to a pipeline that sends water to San Francisco, which provides 85% of the city’s water.

The law suit was filed because federal orders for “severe cutbacks” in the amount of water provided to the Central Valley to protect the fish habitat, but was not enforced with the Hetch-Hetchy Project.

One might think that environmentalists would support such legislation, such as Kieran Suckling, executive director of the Center for Biological Diversity. Yet, when asked her opinion on the lawsuit she stated,

“the goal is not to provide more water for fish, the goal is to provide more water for Westlands”. Westlands Water District is a water company that operates and competes in the same region as the Hetch-Hetchy project. Mr. Bernhardt led the lobbying effort for Westlands Water District at Brownstein between 2011 and 2016 and Westlands Water District paid Brownstein 1.5 million dollars over that period for his services. Most significantly, the head of CESAR serves as the general council for Westlands Water District and Mr. Bernstein is a member of the board of directors. This is one such example of CESAR using the Endangered Species Act to pervert conservation legislation for a company’s profit.