Isaac Arnsdorf and Al Shaw
YORK, N.Y.) -- When
the Trump administration took office early last year, hundreds of
staffers from lobbying firms, conservative think tanks and Trump
campaign groups began pouring into the very agencies they once
lobbied or whose work they once opposed.
available, for the first time, an
authoritative searchable database of 2,475 political appointees,
including Trump’s Cabinet, staffers in the White House and
senior officials within the government, along with their federal
lobbying and financial records.
the result of a year spent filing hundreds of Freedom of
Information Act requests; collecting and organizing staffing lists;
and compiling, sifting through and publishing thousands of financial
what we found:
At least 187 Trump political appointees have been federal lobbyists,
and despite President Trump’s campaign pledge to “drain
the swamp,” many are now overseeing the industries they once
lobbied on behalf of. We’ve also discovered ethics waivers that
allow Trump staffers to work on subjects in which they have financial
conflicts of interest.
addition, at least 254
appointees affiliated with Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign
and at least 125 staffers from prominent conservative think tanks are
now working in the federal government, many of whom are on teams to
repeal Obama-era regulations.
down even further,
at least 35 Trump political appointees worked for or consulted with
groups affiliated with the the billionaire libertarian brothers
Charles and David Koch, who also have a network of advocacy
groups, nonprofits, private companies and political action
least 25 Trump
appointees came from the influential Heritage Foundation, a
conservative think tank founded in 1973, and at least two came from
Action, its related political nonprofit. Heritage says the
administration, in just its first year, has enacted
nearly two-thirds of its 334 policy recommendations.
Rare Birds Called
also found — for
the first time — dozens of special-government employees, or
SGEs, who work as paid consultants or experts for federal agencies
while keeping their day jobs in the private sector. This rare
government gig allows them to legally work for both industry and the
Trump administration at the same time.
administration, Huma Abedin, the longtime aide to former Secretary of
State Hillary Clinton, benefited from this
policy while simultaneously working at the State Department,
Clinton Foundation and a corporate consulting firm, drawing scrutiny
from the Senate Judiciary Committee and the Government
60 percent of the
Trump administration officials included in our analysis have
financial disclosure reports. We have requested these reports for the
rest. Since our last update of financial disclosure records in
August, we have added 660 such reports from across the government.
did a more limited version of this project in 2009, at the start of
the Obama administration. As part of this year’s analysis,
we compared the number of appointees in the first year of both the
Obama and Trump administrations who had been active lobbyists in the
two years prior to their nomination for Senate-confirmed government
though the Trump
administration has lagged significantly behind previous
administrations in appointing people for such positions, more Trump
appointees were recent lobbyists than Obama appointees: Trump had 18
in his first year, while Obama had 14.
Revolving Door &
scandals alone can distract from the enormous scale of the Trump
administration’s embrace of revolving-door hiring,” said
Jeff Hauser, executive director of the Revolving Door Project at the
nonpartisan Center for Economic and Policy Research.
conservative policy think tanks — namely the Heritage
Foundation and the Koch Brothers’ Freedom Partners Chamber of
Commerce — and the Trump administration are clear, as is their
effect on federal policy.
before Trump took
office last January, Freedom
Partners Chamber of Commerce, one of the main conservative
advocacy groups funded by the Koch Brothers, unveiled a deregulatory
wish list. The action
plan highlighted 19 Obama-era policies affecting the
labor and technology that Freedom Partners wanted gone. “This
strategy can help to unravel eight years of regulatory overreach
starting immediately,” the organization’s vice president,
Andy Koenig, wrote in an accompanying
few weeks later, Koenig
joined the White House as a policy assistant, putting him in a
position to implement his former employer’s agenda. Sure
enough, just over a year later, the administration has acted on 16 of
the 19 suggestions that Freedom Partners listed.
moratorium on federal
coal leases? Lifted.
The Paris climate agreement? Withdrawn.
The Clean Power Plan? Repealed.
The FCC’s net neutrality policy, the EPA’s Waters of the
United States rule, and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s
arbitration rules? All reversed.
Partners and the
White House didn’t respond to requests for comment.
On The Koch
Network & Heritage Foundation
Trump campaign had a
small staff and was light on policy chops, so it leaned heavily on
personnel from the
Koch network and the Heritage
Foundation during the transition. “When you have a
president committed to strong deregulatory policy, there’s no
better place to figure out what regulations put a stranglehold on the
economy than to go to the Koch network and the Heritage Foundation,”
said Marc Lampkin, the co-chair of Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck’s
lobbying practice and a former aide to House Speaker John Boehner.
“It makes perfect sense that they would be part of the
intellectual breeding ground for the administration.”
Heritage Foundation has
touted its influence over Trump’s agenda. On Jan. 23, the
the Trump administration embraced two-thirds of the 334 policy
recommendations in its “Mandate for Leadership,” such as
shrinking national monuments in Utah, preventing taxpayer funding for
international groups involved in abortion (known as the Mexico City
Policy), raising military spending, and withdrawing from UNESCO.
cited the efforts
of about 70 of its former employees working throughout the transition
and administration. Our analysis found 28 officials who used to work
at the Heritage Foundation and its advocacy arm, Heritage Action.
appointments are announced. In digging through lists of
special-government employees, we found several in key positions in
the Trump administration, including Wendy Teramoto, Commerce
Secretary Wilbur Ross’s chief of staff and a longtime aide at
his private equity firm; James D. Ray, a George W. Bush-era staffer
who worked as an unpaid consultant at the Department of
Transportation while keeping his job as a principal in KPMG’s
infrastructure consulting practice; and Leonard Wolfson, who was
lobbying on behalf of the Mortgage Bankers Association on Capitol
Hill one week before getting paid $64 per hour as an expert at the
Department of Housing and Urban Development the next week.
case is a
prime example of the inherent business conflicts in such
arrangements: Wolfson is a well-known
housing lobbyist among House Republicans and served in the
administration at HUD from 2005 to 2008. Senate
records show Wolfson was actively lobbying on banking
and regulatory issues in April and May.
mid-May, Wolfson had
taken a relatively rare position as an outside “expert”
at HUD while he was still employed at the 2,200-member lobbying
group. To take the HUD gig, Wolfson took an unpaid leave from the
Mortgage Bankers Association. He didn’t fully resign from the
group until July 31.
HUD, Wolfson worked on
getting nominees for senior positions at the agency through the
backlogged and slow Senate confirmation process, according to HUD
for comment, a HUD
spokesman denied there was any conflict. “There was absolutely
no overlap,” said Brian Sullivan. “He took one hat off
and put another one on.”
consulting work this past summer was not previously disclosed. And in
December, Wolfson himself was
appointed and confirmed as HUD’s assistant secretary for
congressional and intergovernmental relations.
Town as a resource for journalists, researchers and the public. Its
goal: to increase understanding of who the current administration’s
taxpayer-funded decision-makers are and how their work histories and
financial holdings might influence public policy.
Kravitz is the research editor at ProPublica and covers the Trump
administration. Isaac Arnsdorf is a reporter at ProPublica, covering
national politics. Al Shaw is a news applications developer at
report originally ran at ProPublica and is reprinted here with
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