A Westlands Water District lobbyist who was leading the Trump transition team’s Interior Department planning has dropped Westlands as a client, though his transition responsibilities remain unclear.
Meanwhile, a former staffer to onetime San Joaquin Valley Congressman Richard Pombo has taken charge of Trump’s Energy Department transition, giving it some Western swing.
With lobbyists suddenly finding themselves in disfavor with the broader Trump transition operations, David Bernhardt of the firm Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck used a filing last Friday to declare he was no longer representing the nation’s largest water district.
The Brownstein Hyatt firm reports having been paid $260,000 by Westlands this year.
A former Interior Department solicitor, Bernhardt first registered as a Westlands lobbyist in April 2011. Since then, his firm reports having been paid $1.1 million by Westlands. His departure does not leave the 600,000-acre water district disarmed; two other D.C.-based lobbying firms are still registered on Westlands’ behalf and have been paid a total of $240,000 since January.
Bernhardt’s withdrawal from Westlands more or less coincided with his being replaced as leader of the Interior Department transition operations by David Domenich, another former Interior Department official. It followed a purge of some lobbyists from transition teams and it came on the heels of Rep. Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael, floating an amendment to block former Westlands lobbyists and employees from overseeing a Westlands irrigation drainage plan if they were to join the Interior Department.
Huffman did not disguise the fact that his amendment last week drew attention to Bernhardt’s role.
Bernhardt referred questions about the status of his Interior Department transition work, if any, to the Trump transition press office, which did not respond.
Tom Pyle, the president of the American Energy Alliance, now heads the Trump Energy Department transition team, E&E News reported. From 1993 to 1997, Pyle worked for Pombo, a Tracy Republican who chaired the House Resources Committee, and Pyle then served as legislative director for Mariposa Republican George Radanovich.
The American Energy Alliance is the political arm of the Institute for Energy Research, whose directors have included the director of federal relations for Koch Industries, a firm for which Pyle also once lobbied.