Watchdog and conservation groups called out former oil lobbyist and current Interior Secretary David Bernhardt Friday over the department\u0026#039;s attempt to give a \u0022coveted\u0022 permanent water supply contract to one of Bernhardt\u0026#039;s ex-clients.\u0022Bernhardt is fast making a play for title of \u0026#039;Shadiest Trump Cabinet Official.\u0026#039;\u0022—Robert Weissman, Public Citizen\u0022Bernhardt might as well still work for his former lobbying firm, where he represented oil and gas, mining, and agribusiness interests for many years,\u0022 declared Public Citizen president Robert Weissman.Weissman\u0026#039;s national advocacy group previously waged a campaign highlighting Bernhardt\u0026#039;s conflicts of interest, opposed his confirmation, and filed an ethics complaint demanding a department investigation into him.\u0022If Bernhardt would like to return to his former lobbying job at Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck and pursue the interests of his corporate clients, he certainly is free to do so, subject to the ethics rules,\u0022 Weissman said. \u0022But for now, he is secretary of the Interior, and his duty is to serve the public, not his old clients.\u0022Invoking President Donald Trump\u0026#039;s rallying cries from the 2016 campaign, Weissman added that \u0022if anyone still has any illusions that Trump is working to \u0026#039;drain the swamp\u0026#039; or \u0026#039;take on elites,\u0026#039; here is the definitive proof that it ain\u0026#039;t so. A former lobbyist delivering the goods for his old lobby clients is about as corrupt as it gets. Bernhardt is fast making a play for title of \u0026#039;Shadiest Trump Cabinet Official.\u0026#039;\u0022Holy hell. The oil lobbyist running Trump\u0026#039;s Interior Department is awarding one of the first *permanent* water supply contracts to.... wait for it.... his former lobbying client.This is as corrupt as it gets. https://t.co/a7JwhfFyuu— Public Citizen (@Public_Citizen) November 8, 2019Center for Western Priorities policy director Jesse Prentice-Dunn concurred, tweeting late Thursday that the situation represented \u0022the absolute epitome of the swamp.\u0022Their condemnation came in response to an Associated Press report that the Interior Department \u0022is proposing to award one of the first contracts for federal water in perpetuity\u0022 to California\u0026#039;s Westlands Water District. The district, which \u0022serves some of country\u0026#039;s wealthiest and most politically influential corporate farmers,\u0022 long employed Bernhardt as a lobbyist.\u0022As a lobbyist, he was involved in negotiations on a contentious 2016 federal law that made the Westlands\u0026#039; proposed deal possible, allowing water districts to lock up permanent contracts for water from California\u0026#039;s federal water project,\u0022 AP noted. That law, which conservationists oppose over concerns for endangered native wildlife, \u0022reshaped the federal handling of water in the U.S. state with the largest economy.\u0022After years of working for powerful industries, Bernhardt joined the Interior Department as deputy secretary in July 2017, despite opposition from ethics and environmental advocates who labeled him a \u0022walking conflict of interest.\u0022 The GOP-controlled U.S. Senate confirmed him as secretary in April, following the December resignation of scandal-ridden Ryan Zinke.\u0022Despite Bernhardt\u0026#039;s clear conflicts of interest and his involvement in decisions that are currently under investigation for ethics violations, he can\u0026#039;t stop carrying water for his powerful former client,\u0022 Jayson O\u0026#039;Neill, deputy director of the advocacy group Western Values Project, said in a statement Friday.\u0022The flood gates of corruption flow through Bernhardt, who has manipulated scientific studies, prioritized resources, and tasked staff all to benefit a former client at the expense of the public,\u0022 he added. \u0022Bernhardt\u0026#039;s level of corruption may only be eclipsed by that of his boss, but that should not prevent Congress from initiating an investigation immediately.\u0022This post has been updated to reflect that David Bernhardt was confirmed by the U.S. Senate as secretary of the Interior Department in April 2019.