Ex-Interior chief David Bernhardt rejoins Colorado-based lobbying firm

By: - May 3, 2021 1:11 pm

David Bernhardt, President Donald Trump’s then-nominee to be Interior Secretary, testifies during a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee confirmation hearing on March 28, 2019, in Washington, D.C. (Zach Gibson/Getty Images)

David Bernhardt, the Colorado native who served as Secretary of the Interior under former President Donald Trump, has once again rejoined Denver-based law and lobbying giant Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, this time as part-time “special counsel,” the National Law Journal reported Monday.

Bernhardt, who was born in Rifle and began his political career as a staffer for U.S. Rep. Scott McInnis, led the Interior Department for much of the second half of Trump’s term, pursuing what he and other Republican officials called an “energy dominance” agenda. His long list of ties to former clients in the oil and gas industry led critics to label him “the ultimate D.C. swamp creature.”

Bernhardt’s return to Brownstein Hyatt marks the third time he has joined the firm, and the second time he has done so shortly after leaving a senior position in the federal government. He worked as an associate at the firm from 1998 to 2001, prior to joining the Bush administration and ultimately serving as solicitor of the Interior Department. He returned to Brownstein Hyatt for the first time in 2009, and went on to represent a host of clients in the energy and mining sectors during the Obama administration. Trump appointed him as deputy to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke in April 2017, and Bernhardt took over the top job following Zinke’s departure in January 2019.

Founded in Denver in 1968, Brownstein Hyatt employs more than 500 people in 12 offices around the country, according to its website. Its clients include the Colorado Oil and Gas Association, the American Petroleum Institute, Occidental Petroleum, Suncor Energy, and PDC Energy, lobbying disclosures and court records show.

“Bringing David back further solidifies our position as the go-to natural resources firm,” Brownstein Hyatt managing partner Rich Benenson told the National Law Journal.

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Chase Woodruff
Chase Woodruff

Reporter Chase Woodruff covers the environment, the economy and other stories for Colorado Newsline.