Not 'Dumb and Dumber,' but 'Corrupt and Corrupter."
Lumping President Donald Trump and U.S. Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt together as a pair of hapless (yet dangerous) stooges working in service of the fossil fuel industry, an environmental watchdog group this week is driving a mobile billboard around Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. in order to call out the tenacious greed and corruption of the current administration.
"To hold the dubious honor of being President Trump's most corrupt and conflicted cabinet member takes some serious swampiness." —Jayson O'Neill, Western Values Project
Specifically citing Bernhardt's subservience to big oil and gas interests that puts the nation's public land, air, and water at risk, the billboard highlights how Bernhardt—a former lobbyist—has allowed previous clients of his, including the Independent Petroleum Association of America (IPAA), to directly influence decision-making and policy at Interior, which manages the nation's public lands.
"To hold the dubious honor of being President Trump's most corrupt and conflicted cabinet member takes some serious swampiness," said Jayson O'Neill, deputy director of the Western Values Project. "But Secretary Bernhardt keeps one-upping Trump's other swampy members by allowing his former clients, like IPAA, to influence nearly every decision at Interior related to public lands, wildlife, and resources. There is still a chance for Congress to save America's outdoor heritage and hold Secretary Bernhardt accountable for turning Interior into his own personal lobby shop."
Numerous environmental and government watchdog groups have accused Trump of using the power of the Interior Department to exploit public lands for private industry profit with little to no regard for environmental degradation.
The Trump administration scraping the Methane Rule = methane levels have hit historic levels.
— Western Values Project (@Western_Values) December 8, 2019
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According to a statement by Western Values:
Bernhardt, the ultimate D.C. swamp creature and extractive resource mega-lobbyist by trade, declared some 26 conflicts-of-interest that he was to be recused from working on for two years under Trump’s so-called ethics order. Immediately after a historically controversial confirmation vote to become the department’s secretary, Bernhardt became the subject of a multi-faceted investigation by Interior’s internal watchdog for allegedly violating ethics rules after working on particular matters that benefited his former clients.
While the investigation is still ongoing, an Office of Government Ethics’ annual report released this summer and additional reporting from ProPublica confirmed that Sec. Bernhardt and other Trump political appointees at the department violated the administration’s so-called ethics pledge with impunity.
In addition to billboard, the group is circulating a petition—which has already received over 100,000 signatures—to hold Bernhardt accountable for his corrupt leadership and demand Congress investigate his severe abuse of office.
"We will not stand idly by as this blatant conflict-of-interest and abuse of power imperils our public lands, climate, and wildlife," the petition states. "The rollbacks of public lands protections that Bernhardt green-lighted were done haphazardly and often without due process. Our climate is in a state of crisis, and some of our most iconic landscapes are at risk."
While the billboard campaign—a riff of the popular comedy film series starring Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels—is meant to be light-hearted in order to attract eyeballs on Capitol Hill, O'Neill said the issues at hand are dead serious.
"This billboard, which should turn some heads, would be funny if so much wasn't at stake," he said.