June 1, 2017

Waivers for Lobbyists Show Ethics Rules Are an Inconvenience for Trump

Statement of Robert Weissman, President, Public Citizen

Note: Following a request from the U.S. government’s ethics agency, President Donald Trump late Wednesday released a list of staff members he exempted from restrictions on lobbying for issues related to their pre-administration work.

For the Trump White House, even its own highly touted ethics rules are no more than an inconvenience to be waived aside if they interfere with corporate business as usual.

The White House waivers late Wednesday permit an oil and gas lobbyist to help devise energy policy, insurance lobbyists to work on a range of retirement and financial regulatory matters, and corporate lawyers to engage with their former colleagues.

The raft of waivers, which vastly exceeds the number issued in the early months of the Obama administration and – more importantly – authorizes conflicts not permitted in the Obama administration, signify both the corporate takeover of the government and the Trump administration’s utter disregard for ethical standards.

For example, why exactly did the White House counsel conclude that “it is appropriate and in the public interest” for Andrew Olmem, a former lobbyist for Metlife, American Express and the Property Casualty Insurers Association, among many others, to work on issues related to financial stability, credit rating agencies and insurance regulation, among many other issues? In what way is that appropriate or in the public interest? What special attributes does Olmem bring to the job, other than a deep appreciation of the views of the corporations he will now help regulate?

Soon we will see the ethics waivers for the rest of the administration. From an administration that evidences contempt for conflict of interest standards and seems bound and determined to be remembered as the most corrupt in American history, there’s every reason to expect more of the same. The controlling example is indeed set at the top.

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