Download a PDF version of the report. Cartoon copyright 2016 Jim Morin. Reprinted with permission.
Co-authored by the Honorable David N. Cicilline and Rick Claypool
Gutting public protections is at the top of President Donald Trump’s agenda. Regulations, according to Trump, are “unnecessary, burdensome, and job-killing.” They “undermine growth and innovation.” He says he wants to “cut regulations by 75 percent,” an assertion that even an economist at the anti-regulation Cato Institute suggested was an exaggeration. His corporate-tied cabinet secretaries are eliminating restrictions so rapidly and so carelessly, even the fossil fuel industry is asking him to slow down for fear of a backlash against deregulation when the next environmental disaster occurs.
“It’s not helpful if regulations are streamlined so as to allow something to happen — say, a methane explosion or a spill — and we’d be painted with it as an entire industry,” an oil and gas industry employee told Politico.
Trump’s flurry of deregulatory policies and executive orders — especially his unconstitutional “one in, two out” order — all point to one goal: allowing reckless corporations to regulate themselves, a model that has been spectacularly unsuccessful in the past. Meanwhile, Trump’s refusal to cede ownership of his businesses means the president can personally profit from gutting environmental, worker, health and financial protections.
In financial disclosures the president voluntarily released in June, Trump reported gross income of at least $596.3 million in 2016, claimed assets with a value of at least $1.4 billion and reported owing at least $310 million in debt. Bloomberg News estimates Trump’s net worth — largely derived from the value of Trump’s more than 500 business entities and properties — to be about $2.9 billion. It’s a tangled web that’s poised to take advantage of the president’s deregulatory powers.
The conflicts of interest stem from President Trump’s refusal to divest from his business empire after taking office. Instead, Trump maintains his ownership stake in his businesses, setting the stage for unprecedented opportunities for the president to profit by wiping out protections.
In several instances, Trump’s financial interests are directly at odds with protecting the public it is his administration’s duty to serve. The result is the disturbing potential for Americans to be harmed by policies that are implemented partly because they offer short-term financial benefits to the president’s businesses.
This report highlights six examples of cases in which President Trump’s business interests could benefit from his administration’s plans to dismantle public protections. Gutting these protections – the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Water Rule and ban on brain-damaging pesticide chlorpyrifos, the Department of Labor’s overtime rule, the National Labor Relations Board’s “joint employer” rule, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s pay transparency rule and the Department of Homeland Security’s cap on H-2B visa workers — could benefit the Trump Organization. At the same time, these rollbacks would harm low- and middle-income Americans, many of whom supported his candidacy.
The report also provides nine additional examples off anti-corruption restrictions, consumer protections and worker protections that could be rolled back under Trump, to the potential benefit of his companies. It also notes Trump’s potential conflicts of interest relating to an affordable housing program from which he and his family profit and details how Trump could benefit from restrictions on class action lawsuits and tax cuts to benefit corporations and the rich.
At issue are not only the direct monetary gains that Trump may garner from deregulatory moves. His ongoing ownership of a wide range of business interests can’t help but color his approach to regulatory policy, as it relates both to specific rules and broad policy considerations.
The stakes are high. Trump’s deregulatory agenda will result in more workers facing injuries and discrimination, more consumers ripped off and more pollution accelerating climate change and poisoning our air and water. The more Trump’s deregulatory agenda is realized, the more the costs will be borne by the American public.
Trump’s unprecedented conflicts should give pause to legislators and the public when considering the motives behind the president’s deregulatory agenda. They also should prompt a deeper assessment of the degree to which this president — or any future occupant of the Oval Office — should be able to personally profit from his administration’s policies.
MAJOR REGULATORY CONFLICTS
Regulation Trump could gut: The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Army Corps of Engineers’ Clean Water Rule More