David Bernhardt’s Ex-Lobbying Clients Met 70 times with Interior Department Appointees

 

A new analysis from Documented has found that from 2/15/17 to 10/1/18, there were at least 70 meetings between top DOI political appointees and entities listed on Acting Interior Secretary David Bernhardt’s ethics recusal letter. The analysis demonstrates that despite legally binding ethics pledges, Bernhardt’s one time lobbying clients have few fetters on their access to top Interior policymakers.

All 70 known meetings are catalogued and linked to source documents in this report. This analysis hones in on four former clients found to have had top level access to the Interior; Bernhardt’s former employer Brownstein, Hyatt, Farber, and Schreck, The Independent Petroleum Association of America. The United States Oil and Gas Association, and the National Ocean Industries Association.

Key Findings From The Analysis:

  • Lobbyists and executives representing David Bernhardt’s ex-clients scheduled at least 70 meetings with top political appointees at the Department of the Interior since the Trump Administration took office.
  • While David Bernhardt was Deputy Secretary, he met with the Vice President of the United States Oil and Gas Association, an entity he is recused from dealing with.
  • From 2016 to 2017, Bernhardt’s former lobbying firm picked up 51 clients, representing over $6 million in lobbying fees.

Brownstein Hyatt Farber and Schreck (BHFS)

Brownstein Hyatt Farber and Schreck (BHFS) is Bernhardt’s former lobbying firm. The firm, one of the most powerful in Washington, is covered in the ethics recusal document signed by Bernhardt. BHFS had at least 10 meetings with top Interior staff during Bernhardt’s first year. In at least 4 of those 10 meetings BHFS represented corporations on Bernhardt’s recusal letter.

 

Date Client DOI Meeting Attendee(s) Calendar
6/6/17 BHFS Cason, DeVito Link
10/17/17 BHFS Zinke Link
12/14/17 BHFS Jorjani, Larrabee, Willens Link
2/15/18 BHFS Balash Link
3/15/18 BHFS Balash Link
1/23/18 BHFS, Rosemont Copper Jorjani, Larrabee, Sheehan Link
2/13/18 BHFS, Statoil Balash, MacGregor Link
6/29/17 BHFS, Statoil Wind DeVito Link
3/13/17 BHFS, Targa Resources Cason, Magallanes Link

 

Since Bernhardt joined DOI, business has boomed at BHFS. While the firm has been a power player in Washington lobbying for some time, BHFS saw more lobbying dollars in 2018 than ever before in their history, becoming the second highest earning lobbying shop in Washington. In 2017, they picked up 51 clients that they did not register in 2016, worth more than $6 million in lobbying fees. Many of these new clients, like the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association (NMOGA), have business or pending decisions before the Interior Department. . NMOGA’s president outlined his plan to influence oil and gas leasing and regulatory decisions made by the Department of the Interior in a speech to its members in 2017. New BHFS clients also include the mining interest Gemfield Resources, aluminum and steelmaker Nucor Corporation, and the Central Arizona Water Conservation District.

Note: These are clients that appear on BHFS’s 2017 client list, but do not appear on the list for 2016. Some may be returning clients from years prior to 2016. Data from the Center for Responsive Politics.

Client Total Subsidiary Industry
Amazon.com $320,000 Internet
AmeriHealth Caritas $60,000 Health Services
Aspira Technologies $50,000 Aspira Electronics Mfg/Eqp
Borrego Health $260,000 Hospitals/Nurs Homes
Central Arizona Water Conservation District $120,000 Misc Energy
CoBank $170,000 Finance/Credit
Colorado River Energy Distributors Assn $130,000 Misc Energy
Complete Pharma Holdings $300,000 Pharm/Health Prod
Delaware North Companies $20,000 Food & Beverage
DF Advisory Group $0 Unknown Business
Early Learning Ventures $50,000 Education
Edison International $80,000 Electric Utilities
EnvestNet $40,000 Yodlee Inc Electronics Mfg/Eqp
Foxhill Capital Partners $130,000 Securities/Invest
Franklin Loan Center $10,000 Unknown Business
Freeport LNG Development $120,000 Freeport LNG Expansion Oil & Gas
Garrison Diversion Conservancy District $30,000 Misc Energy
Gemfield Resources $90,000 Mining
ICE Group $40,000 Securities/Invest
Insperity $130,000 Business Services
Intrepid Potash $30,000 Mining
Jackson Family Enterprises $200,000 Beer, Wine & Liquor
Kalorama Group $0 Unknown Business
LifePoint Health $290,000 RCCH HealthCare Partners Hospitals/Nurs Homes
Limoneira Co $0 Unknown Business
Maxar Technologies $160,000 DigitalGlobe Telecom Svcs
MGM Resorts International $270,000 Casinos/Gambling
Motor Vehicle Protection Products Assn $80,000 Automotive
National Confectioners Assn $170,000 Food & Beverage
National Federation of the Blind $40,000 Human Rights
National Head Start Assn $80,000 Education
National Minority AIDS Council HIV/STD Partnership $130,000 Human Rights
New Federalism Fund $400,000 Marijuana
NexCore Group $30,000 Unknown Business
Northeast MAGLEV $120,000 Railroads
Novartis AG $30,000 Novartis Corp Pharm/Health Prod
Nucor Corp $140,000 Steel Production
Outerwall Inc $170,000 Coinstar Inc Misc Finance
Patients Rights Action Fund $40,000 Unknown Business
Soaren Management $90,000 Finance/Credit
Solidus Resources $150,000 Mining
Spark Therapeutics $50,000 Pharm/Health Prod
State of Colorado $170,000 Office of the Governor of Colorado Civil Servants
Steele Properties $50,000 Real Estate
SunRun Inc $170,000 Misc Energy
Telecommunications Industry Assn $180,000 Telecom Svcs
Teletech Holdings $50,000 Electronics Mfg/Eqp
Toshiba Corp $440,000 Electronics Mfg/Eqp
Town of Tusayan, AZ $80,000 Civil Servants
Vifor Pharma $70,000 Pharm/Health Prod
Willis Electric Co $30,000 Unknown Business
TOTAL: $6,060,000

 

The Independent Petroleum Association of America (IPAA)

Another Bernhardt client with open access to DOI officials is the Independent Petroleum Association of America (IPAA), a lobbying and trade group for the oil and gas industry. IPAA met with top political appointees at least 6 times. An investigation by Reveal from the Center for Investigative Reporting showed IPAA’s top brass bragging about “direct access” to David Bernhardt in June of 2017. Meetings were held with the most influential of DOI leadership, including Deputy Chief of Staff Kate MacGregor, and Bernhardt’s right hand, Todd Willens. Since January of 2019, Willens has been acting chief of Staff to Bernhardt. Prior to that he was Associate Deputy Secretary. Like Bernhardt, Willens is a former lobbyist with ties to Colorado.

Willens and IPAA met in April 2018, specifically on issues David Bernhardt was bottom-lining at the Interior; Migratory Bird treaties and Mitigation. Hours after the IPAA meeting, calendar records show Willens met with Bernhardt.

That July, Interior rescinded a Fish and Wildlife Service rule regarding Mitigation. This was a specific policy ask of IPAA’s – something they had been pushing since the start of the Trump Administration.

Date Client(s) DOI Rep(s) DocCloud Link(s)
6/29/17 IPAA Bauserman, DeVito, MacGregor, Magallanes Link
6/29/17 IPAA DeVito Link
10/10/17 IPAA DeVito Link
10/11/17 IPAA Cason, Hammond Link
10/17/17 IPAA Hammond, Skipwith, Williams Link
4/26/18 IPAA Willens Link

United States Oil and Gas Association and Tim Stewart (USOGA)

The US Oil and Gas Association (USOGA) is a lobbying group for the oil and gas industry. Tim Stewart is the Vice President of USOGA, and a registered federal lobbyist. Stewart is extremely well-connected in Washington, and comes from a family of elite political players. His brother is Utah Congressman Chris Stewart. His cousin, Cody Stewart, is a top republican staffer turned lobbyist is Washington, DC.

David Bernhardt met in-person with Tim Stewart on October, 5, 2017. According to the title of the meeting, the subject was “Colorado river issues.” While Bernhardt’s ethics recusal forbids him from meeting with former employers, because Stewart has multiple clients, this is considered an “gray area” by ethics experts.

What’s more clear is the influence and access Tim Stewart has at Interior.

Stewart enjoys consistent access to top staff, while representing a range of clients. He met at least twice in one-on-one meetings with Todd Willens. According to Todd Willens calendar, meeting topics include “oil and gas interests.”

 

Date Client(s) DOI Rep(s) DocCloud Link(s)
3/21/17 Tim Stewart Bennett Group (USOGA) Johnson, Willens Link
10/5/17 Tim Stewart re Colorado River (USOGA) Bernhardt, Willens Link
2/15/17 Tim Stewart/USOGA (call w Sgamma) Benedetto, MacGregor Link
5/25/17 US Oil and Gas Assoc. Devito, MacGregor, Swift Link
3/8/18 US Oil and Gas Assoc. Combs, Wynn Link
8/21/17 US Oil and Gas Assoc. (Tim Stewart cell convo) Willens Link
9/29/17 US Oil and Gas Assoc. (Tim Stewart re: Palo Verdes) Willens Link
3/16/18 US Oil and Gas Assoc., IPAA Balash Link
2/27/18 US Oil and Gas Assoc., NOIA Davis, Devito, MacGregor Link


National Ocean Industries Alliance (NOIA)

Photo of top offshore oil lobbyists and David Bernhardt at a NOIA meeting in 2013:

The National Ocean Industries Association is a trade and lobbying group for the offshore oil and gas industry. Bernhardt represented NOIA as a lobbyist. According to a presentation outlining the offshore industry’s policy goals from 2017, NOIA has been remarkably successful. Top officials from the DOI have met at least 12 times with NOIA.

In an April 2017 meeting between NOIA leaders and DOI staff, NOIA’s first topic of business was “Increased access to the OCS,” highlighting that 94% was “off limits to oil and natural gas exploration.” At the direction of Bernhardt, the DOI is presently planning on opening large portions of previously restricted tracts in the Atlantic to oil and gas exploration.

NOIA President Randall Luthi has ready access to Bernhardt’s staff; he is the Co-Director of DOI’s Royalty Policy Committee, which recommended lowering offshore royalty rates. Luthi was present for at least 4 of the 12 meetings between DOI and NOIA. A 2013 NOIA report pictures Bernhardt alongside Luthi, Dick Cheney, and other influential supporters of the fossil fuel industry at NOIA’s fall meeting. Luthi and Bernhardt were presenters at a 2011 NOIA meeting where Bernhardt “provided insight on the use of NEPA and the ESA as a litigation tool.” Luthi applauded Bernhardt’s nomination to Secretary of the Interior.

Ultimately, Bernhardt will have sign-off on the final OCS leasing plan. Multiple powerful offshore oil interests behind the push to open Atlantic, Arctic, and Eastern Gulf of Mexico to offshore drilling were Bernhardt’s clients prior to his job in the Trump Department of Interior. These include the lobbying groups NOIA and the Independent Petroleum Association of America (IPAA), and the oil companies ENI, Statoil, Noble Energy, and Halliburton.

Date Client(s) DOI Rep(s) DocCloud Link(s)
4/5/2017 NOIA Jorjani Link
6/15/2017 NOIA Angelle Link
7/12/2017 NOIA Beard Link
9/28/17 NOIA DeVito Link
9/28/2017 NOIA DeVito, Schindler Link
10/4/2017 NOIA MacGregor Link
12/19/17 NOIA Funes, Wynn Link
3/22/18 NOIA Wynn Link
3/28/18 NOIA Funes, Wynn Link
4/11/18 NOIA Angelle, Funes, MacGregor, Schindler, Wynn Link
7/14/2017 NOIA Angelle Link
6/7/17 NOIA (OOC speech) Angelle Link

All Meetings Between DOI Appointees and Bernhardt’s Clients

Note: These are scheduled meetings, it is possible some of these did not take place. Some meetings listed below are internal meetings about an external party related to David Bernhardt. Cases where it is clear the meeting is internal were not included in the final tally of meetings between DOI officials and Bernhadt’s clients.

Date Client(s) DOI Rep(s) DocCloud Link(s)
6/6/17 BHFS Cason, DeVito Link
10/17/17 BHFS Zinke Link
12/14/17 BHFS Jorjani, Larrabee, Willens Link
2/15/18 BHFS Balash Link
3/15/18 BHFS Balash Link
1/23/18 BHFS, Rosemont Copper Jorjani, Larrabee, Sheehan Link
2/13/18 BHFS, Statoil Balash, MacGregor Link
6/29/17 BHFS, Statoil Wind DeVito Link
3/13/17 BHFS, Targa Resources Cason, Magallanes Link
2/24/17 Cadiz Magallanes Link
3/6/17 Cadiz Benedetto, Magallanes, Cason Link
9/22/17 Cadiz Hammond Link
9/24/17 Cadiz Benedetto Link
4/3/2017 Cadiz Zinke Link
9/14/17 Cobalt Int. Energy MacGregor Link
6/29/17 Cobalt Int. Energy (via Gulf Energy Alliance) DeVito Link
4/5/17 Cobalt Int. Energy, NOIA Jorjani Link
4/6/17 Cobalt Int. Energy, NOIA Zinke Link
9/20/17 Eni Petroleum DeVito Link
10/3/17 Eni Petroleum Angelle Link
4/6/17 Haliburton, Noble, NOIA, Statoil (via NOIA Annual Meeting) Zinke Link
4/25/17 Halliburton (via WEA meeting) Zinke; MacGregor; Magallanes; Bloomgren Link
4/27/17 IPAA Benedetto Link
6/29/17 IPAA Bauserman, DeVito, MacGregor, Magallanes Link
6/29/17 IPAA DeVito Link
10/10/17 IPAA DeVito Link
10/11/17 IPAA Cason, Hammond Link
10/17/17 IPAA Hammond, Skipwith, Williams Link
4/26/18 IPAA Willens Link
3/14/17 Noble Energy Benedetto Link
3/7/2017 NOIA Magallanes Link
4/5/2017 NOIA Jorjani Link
6/15/2017 NOIA Angelle Link
7/12/2017 NOIA Beard Link
9/28/17 NOIA DeVito Link
9/28/2017 NOIA DeVito, Schindler Link
10/4/2017 NOIA MacGregor Link
12/19/17 NOIA Funes, Wynn Link
3/22/18 NOIA Wynn Link
3/28/18 NOIA Funes, Wynn Link
4/11/18 NOIA Angelle, Funes, MacGregor, Schindler, Wynn Link
7/14/2017 NOIA Angelle Link
6/7/17 NOIA (OOC speech) Angelle Link
12/13/17 NRG Energy Benedetto Link
8/17/18 NRG Energy Balash Link
10/1/18 NRG Energy Balash Link
2/9/18 Sempra Energy (cancelled meeting) Benedetto, Cason Link
10/3/17 Sempra Energy (speaking event, Sempra hosted lunch) DeVito Link
6/26/17 Statoil Angelle, Devito, MacGregor, Schindler Link
8/28/17 Statoil DeVito Link
10/2/17 Statoil DeVito, Schindler Link
6/29/17 Statoil Wind DeVito Link
3/13/17 Targa Resources Magallanes Link
5/31/17 Taylor Energy Angelle Link
6/1/17 Taylor Energy Angelle Link
6/16/17 Taylor Energy Angelle Link
6/22/17 Taylor Energy Angelle Link
8/3/17 Taylor Energy Angelle Link
8/4/17 Taylor Energy Angelle Link
9/26/17 Taylor Energy Angelle Link
10/4/17 Taylor Energy MacGregor Link
11/13/17 Taylor Energy Angelle Link
12/4/17 Taylor Energy Angelle Link
12/12/17 Taylor Energy Angelle Link
12/18/17 Taylor Energy Angelle Link
1/5/18 Taylor Energy Angelle Link
1/24/18 Taylor Energy Angelle Link
1/29/18 Taylor Energy Angelle Link
3/21/17 Tim Stewart Bennett Group (USOGA) Johnson, Willens Link
10/5/17 Tim Stewart re Colorado River (USOGA) Bernhardt, Willens Link
2/15/17 Tim Stewart/USOGA (call w Sgamma) Benedetto, MacGregor Link
5/25/17 US Oil and Gas Assoc. Devito, MacGregor, Swift Link
3/8/18 US Oil and Gas Assoc. Combs, Wynn Link
8/21/17 US Oil and Gas Assoc. (Tim Stewart cell convo) Willens Link
9/29/17 US Oil and Gas Assoc. (Tim Stewart re: Palo Verdes) Willens Link
3/16/18 US Oil and Gas Assoc., IPAA Balash Link
2/27/18 US Oil and Gas Assoc., NOIA Davis, Devito, MacGregor Link

 

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