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Interior watchdog probes agency’s newly confirmed chief

WASHINGTON — The Interior Department’s internal watchdog has launched an ethics investigation of newly confirmed Interior Secretary David Bernhardt.

Deputy Interior Inspector General Mary Kendall notified Democratic senators in a letter Monday that her office has begun to investigate whether Bernhardt violated ethics rules on conflicts of interest or other issues.

The news comes days after the Senate confirmed Bernhardt — a former lobbyist for oil and gas and other large corporate interests — to oversee the nation’s public resources.

Democratic lawmakers had asked the Interior Department’s Office of the Inspector General to examine allegations Bernhardt has been using his Cabinet job to do favors for former lobbying clients.

Interior spokeswoman Faith Vander Voort says Bernhardt is in full compliance with all ethics laws and rules.