More than a quarter of all presidential appointees are former lobbyists
Recently, Public Citizen filed 30 ethics complaints alleging 30 separate violations of Trump’s ethics executive order – purportedly the main means by which he was going to “drain the swamp.”
Trump’s ethics order, which he signed during his first week in office, supposedly would help prohibit the “revolving door” between government and lobbying. The order prohibits lobbyists from entering government and working on issues they had worked on in the two years prior. The order was sold to the public as a way for Trump to keep Washington honest. Yet through analyzing Trump’s appointees, we found that lobbyists are actually swarming into the Trump administration, and that more than a quarter of all presidential appointees are former lobbyists. Under Trump’s ethics rule, a registered lobbyist can de-register on Monday and be appointed into the Trump administration on Tuesday.
Furthermore, Public Citizen found at least three dozen cases where former lobbyists have been appointed to positions in the Trump administration overseeing the same specific issue area they recently lobbied, which appears to violate Trump’s own ethics rules. Only six of these lobbyists have received waivers from the ethics rules. Far from “draining the swamp,” Trump seems to be flagrantly ignoring his own ethics order and inviting swamp monsters into his administration with open arms. As Lisa Gilbert, our vice president of legislative affairs, put it, “’Drain the swamp’ was far more campaign rhetoric than a commitment to ethics, and the widespread lack of compliance and enforcement of Trump’s ethics executive order shows that ethics do not matter in the Trump administration.”
Our ethics complaints have made a splash in national news media. NBC reported that they constitute a “blizzard” and relates them to many of the Trump administration’s other legal and ethical violations, such as Cabinet heads and aides facing corruption charges for misuse of taxpayer funds (remember Tom Price?)
The Hill also reported on our ethics complaints by noting how it ties into a pattern of this administration’s many abuses of government ethics. They bring up our October report which found that, through just the first half of 2017, 44 active lobbyists with ties to Trump or Pence had contributed nearly $42 million in lobbying revenue and spending.
Finally, ABC’s coverage of our complaints goes further into detail about some of the individuals whose work in the Trump administration violates the ethics order and who were named in our complaints. It delves into Trump appointees at Health and Human Services, the Pentagon, and the Office of the Secretary of Defense, none of whom should be employed in their administration roles per Trump’s own executive order. Unsurprisingly, none of those agencies chose to comment when contacted by ABC.
The 30 violations that we found are likely only the tip of the iceberg. So far, we’ve only analyzed about a quarter of the Trump appointees, because records for more were not available at the time we first uncovered the violations. We will continue to wade through the swampy muck in which Trump has mired the country to expose more corruption and abuses and hold the administration accountable.