Far from fulfilling his campaign promise to “drain the swamp” in Washington, President Donald Trump appears to be filling it with former lobbyists and consultants.
The president has relaxed ethics regulations, eliminating a requirement barring lobbyists from joining agencies that they lobbied up to two years prior. Trump does require that former lobbyists not work on specific issues linked to a past client. But it appears that regulation is not always followed.
The New York Times and ProPublica have highlighted some especially worrisome hires in the executive branch, including White House energy adviser Michael Catanzaro, a former oil and gas company lobbyist, and Geoff Burr, a former construction industry lobbyist now working at the Department of Labor.
A lobbyist may “de-register on Monday and enter the Trump Administration on Tuesday,” Craig Holman of the watchdog group Public Citizen told ProPublica — and could also quickly return to the private sector.
Just last week, Bloomberg revealed that Marcus Peacock, a top Trump aide who worked briefly in the Office of Management and Budget, will join the lobbying group the Business Roundtable. Peacock has recused himself from lobbying the OMB for just six months — even though he agreed not to lobby his former agency for five years, according to Bloomberg.
Trump may also be issuing other ethics waivers, but that’s difficult to determine because granted waivers are generally kept secret, the Times reports. The president is also keeping White House visitor logs secret, making it difficult to track corporate representatives’ meetings with federal officials as they create new policy.
The White House told the Times that it “takes its ethics pledge and federal conflict of interest rules very seriously,” and is complying with the law.