By Alan Zibel
Under the Trump administration, the revolving door between the U.S. government and law firms that represent big, powerful corporations is spinning like never before.
Dozens of Trump administration lawyers working in agencies including the White House, Department of Justice, Interior Department and the Environmental Protection Agency — are now overseeing the government’s interactions with the same kinds of clients they recently represented, a Public Citizen analysis finds. A list of revolving-door lawyers is below, and the full spreadsheet with sources is available here.
Public Citizen studied the backgrounds of 127 senior Trump administration lawyers, examining their prior employers and clients. Of those officials, 76 present revolving-door concerns in Public Citizen’s judgment, meaning they previously represented companies with business before the government, or worked in the same field they now oversee. They have moved to the Trump administration from doing legal work and lobbying for BP, Ford Motor Co., Verizon, Koch Industries and many others.
Corporate lawyers are in charge of almost every major division at the Justice Department, charged with enforcing laws they recently sought to defend against or undermine:
- The department’s solicitor general represented the tobacco industry.
- The antitrust division is headed by a former lobbyist for big corporations.
- The nominee to run the civil rights division has defended corporations against employment discrimination charges.
- The nominee to run the criminal division defends white-collar, corporate crime cases and helped a Russian bank investigate whether its computer servers communicated directly with Donald Trump’s company.
- The national security division is led by Boeing’s former assistant general counsel.
- The nominee to run the environment and natural resources division represented BP in the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster. The official temporarily holding that spot is a former lobbyist who represented a major electric utility, authored a paper that was critical of endangered species protection and recused himself from a long list of cases and topics.
The problem is pervasive in the Trump administration, as evidenced by examples in other agencies:
- At the Environmental Protection Agency, the Trump administration has hired or nominated at least 10 lawyers who have represented or worked for polluters including coal miners, oil refiners, the Koch brothers, paper companies and agricultural giants.
- At the Interior Department, the second-ranking official is a lawyer and former lobbyist who represented a controversial copper mine and a major agricultural water district. The Trump administration has hired lawyers with close ties to the Koch Brothers, who own major oil refineries and have been funding efforts to open up public lands to energy exploration.
- One of the Koch-tied lawyers in the Trump administration recently renewed mining leases in Minnesota for a Chilean company. That company is controlled by a Chilean billionaire who the U.S. government after the Obama administration blocked renewal of the copper-mining leases and also rents out a Washington, D.C. mansion to Ivanka Trump and her family.
- At the Education Department, a lawyer who worked at a for-profit college that got into trouble with the government is playing a key role in developing government policy on higher education issues.
Public Citizen’s analysis excludes independent regulators such as the Securities and Exchange Commission, but those agencies have their own fair share of revolving-door issues. Others who worked in relatively junior roles at corporate law firms and lacked a long legal track record did not show enough evidence of revolving-door issues in Public Citizen’s analysis Some Trump lawyers previously worked in government and military jobs and thus do not present a revolving door issue. Others have extreme right-wing views on such issues as abortion and civil rights, but don’t have a track record of working for corporate interests.
The analysis highlights how Trump’s promise to “drain the swamp” when he got to Washington, D.C. has turned out to be a typical substance-free boast. Trump’s appointments have included dozens of lobbyists whose governmental responsibilities fall into the same specific issue areas on which they lobbied within the past two years. Public Citizen previously identified 36 such appointees.
While the names of government lawyers are rarely in the headlines, they are crucial to the functions of government. They make decision after decision that impacts Americans’ lives. They decide whether the government will give polluters, scam artists, predatory lenders and other wrongdoers a harsh penalty or an easy pass. They determine whether the federal government for will go soft on corporate wrongdoers or allow them to prosper.
Certainly, many Trump lawyers have recused themselves from specific cases that involve their former clients. But doing so does not solve the problem. Having spent years defending corporate clients and absorbing their worldview it defies commonsense that such lawyers would pivot from representing BP to cracking down on Shell or ExxonMobil.
Public Citizen’s analysis also highlights the disproportionate influence of a few high-powered corporate law firms. Jones Day has 12 alumni in the Trump administration, while Kirkland & Ellis has 11 alumni.
|Employer||Trump Lawyer Alumni|
|Kirkland & Ellis LLP||11|
|Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher||4|
|King & Spalding LLP||4|
|Squire Patton Boggs/Patton Boggs||4|
|Sullivan & Cromwell||4|
|White House (George W. Bush)||3|
|Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP||2|
For the sake of comparison, Public Citizen identified 23 key legal jobs and compared Trump legal hires to the Obama administration officials who held the same positions. In the Obama administration, nine presented revolving-door concerns, compared with 17 in the Trump administration. Close connections between the government and a handful of corporate law firms are by no means exclusive to the Trump administration. They are a longstanding problem that has often eluded attempts at reform.
Under the Obama administration, former lobbyists could not be appointed to any agency they had lobbied in the last two years. If appointed to an agency they had not lobbied, they could not oversee the same “specific issue areas” they had lobbied in the last two years.
This restriction applied only to former lobbyists, many of whom were lawyers. All Obama administration officials had to recuse themselves from official actions impacting their former employers or clients within the last two years. Waivers could be granted but were rare. By contrast, the Trump administration has granted a slew of waivers for White House and federal agency officials, vastly exceeding the number issued in the early months of the Obama administration and authorizing conflicts that were not permitted in the Obama administration.
These officials bring to the job a deep appreciation of the views of the corporations they will now help regulate. It would be folly to expect anything else of the Trump administration, which is destined to be remembered as the most corrupt in American history.
|Agency||Name||Title||Previous Employer||Previous Employer #2||Previous Employer #3|
|Agriculture||Rebeckah Adcock||Senior Advisor||CropLife America||U.S. Senate||American Farm Bureau Federation|
|Commerce||Catherine Bellah Keller||Deputy general counsel for strategic initiatives||Latham & Watkins||Dimensional Fund Advisors|
|Commerce||Gilbert Kaplan||Undersecretary for international trade||King & Spalding LLP|
|Commerce||Mike Walsh||Deputy general counsel||O'Melveny & Myers LLP|
|Commerce||Peter B. Davidson||General counsel||Verizon|
|Director of National Intelligence||Jason Klitenic||General counsel (Nominated)||Holland & Knight|
|Education||Carlos G. Muniz||General counsel (Nominated)||McGuireWoods LLP|
|Education||Robert Eitel||Senior Counselor to the Secretary||Bridgepoint Education|
|Energy||Bernard Leonard McNamee||Deputy General Counsel for Energy Policy||McGuireWoods LLP|
|Energy||G. Michael Brown||Deputy General Counsel for Compliance||Jordan, Houser & Flournoy, LLP||Ben Carson presidential campaign||Chesapeake Energy|
|Energy||George Fibbe||Deputy General Counsel for Litigation, Regulation and Enforcement||Sunnova Energy||BHP Billiton|
|Energy||Mark Menezes||Undersecretary of Energy||Berkshire Hathaway Energy||Hunton & Williams||U.S. House|
|Energy||Sean Cunningham||Executive Director, Office of Energy Policy and Systems Analysis||Balch & Bingham LLP,||U.S. House|
|Environmental Protection Agency||Andrew Wheeler||Deputy Administrator (nominated)||Faegre Baker Daniels||U.S. Senate||Environmental Protection Agency|
|Environmental Protection Agency||Bill Wehrum||Assistant Administrator for EPA?s Office of Air and Radiation||Hunton & Williams||Environmental Protection Agency|
|Environmental Protection Agency||David Fotouhi||Deputy general counsel||Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP|
|Environmental Protection Agency||Erik Baptist||Senior Deputy General Counsel||American Petroleum Institute||Federal Energy Regulatory Commission||McDermott Will & Emery|
|Environmental Protection Agency||George Sugiyama||Senior Advisor for the Office of Policy||Troutman Sanders||U.S. Senate|
|Environmental Protection Agency||Justin Schwab||Deputy General Counsel||Baker & Hostetler LLP|
|Environmental Protection Agency||Marcella Burke||Deputy general counsel||Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP|
|Environmental Protection Agency||Matthew Z. Leopold||General counsel||Carlton Fields||Florida Department of Environmental Protection||Justice Department|
|Environmental Protection Agency||Patrick Traylor||Deputy Assistant Administrator at EPA's Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance||Hogan Lovells||American Chemistry Council|
|Environmental Protection Agency||Samantha Dravis||Associate Administrator, EPA's Office of Policy||Republican Attorneys General Association||Rule of Law Defense Fund||Freedom Partners|
|Environmental Protection Agency||Susan Bodine||Assistant administrator for enforcement and compliance assurance||U.S. Senate||Barnes & Thornburg LLP|
|Executive office of the President||Jeffrey Gerrish||Deputy U.S. trade representative, (rank of ambassador)||Skadden, Arps|
|Health and Human Services||Brian R Stimson||Deputy general counsel for litigation||Alston & Bird LLP|
|Health and Human Services||Eric Hargan||Deputy secretary||Greenberg Traurig|
|Health and Human Services||Kelly Cleary||Deputy general counsel||Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP|
|Health and Human Services||Robert Charrow||General Counsel||Greenberg Traurig||Intrexon Corp.|
|Homeland Security||John Marshall Mitnick||General counsel||Heritage Foundation||Raytheon|
|Housing and Urban Development||J. Paul Compton Jr.||General counsel||Bradley Arant Boult Cummings LLP|
|Housing and Urban Development||Neal J. Rackleff||Assistant secretary for community planning and development||Locke Lord LLP||City of Houston|
|Interior||Brandon Middleton||Deputy solicitor for water resources||U.S. Senate||Harrison, Temblador, Hungerford & Johnson||Pacific Legal Foundation|
|Interior||Daniel Jorjani||Principal Deputy Solicitor/Special Assistant to the Secretary||Freedom Partners||Charles Koch Institute|
|Interior||David Bernhardt||Deputy secretary||Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck|
|Interior||Gary Lakowski||Counselor to the Solicitor||Freedom Partners||Federal Election Commission|
|Interior||Richard Goeken||Deputy solicitor for parks and wildlife||Smith Currie & Hancock, L.L.P||Saltman & Stevens|
|Justice||Beth Ann Williams||Assistant attorney general for the Office of Legal Policy||Kirkland & Ellis LLP|
|Justice||Brian Allen Benczkowski||Assistant Attorney General, Criminal Division (Nominated)||Kirkland & Ellis LLP|
|Justice||Chad Readler||Principal DeputyÿAssistant Attorney General for the Civil Division||Jones Day|
|Justice||Christopher A. Wray||Director, Federal Bureau of Investigation||King & Spalding LLP|
|Justice||Eric S. Dreiband||Assistant attorney general for the civil rights division (Nominated)||Jones Day|
|Justice||James Burnham||Senior Counsel, Civil Division||White House||Jones Day|
|Justice||Jeffrey Bossert Clark||Assistant Attorney General, Environment and Natural Resources (Nominated)||Kirkland & Ellis LLP|
|Justice||Jeffrey Bryan Wall||Principal Deputy Solicitor General||Sullivan & Cromwell|
|Justice||Jesse Panuccio||Associate attorney general (Acting)||Foley & Lardner||Florida state govt||Cooper & Kirk PLLC|
|Justice||Jeffrey Wood||Acting Assistant Attorney General for Environment and Natural Resources||Balch & Bingham LLP|
|Justice||John C. Demers||Assistant attorney general for the national security division||Boeing|
|Justice||John Gore||Acting Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights||Jones Day|
|Justice||Makan Delrahim||Assistant attorney general for the antitrust division||Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck|
|Justice||Noel J. Francisco||Solicitor general||Jones Day|
|Labor||Kate O’Scannlain||Solicitor of Labor||Kirkland & Ellis LLP|
|National Labor Relations Board||Peter B. Robb||General counsel||Downs Rachlin Martin|
|State||John J. Sullivan||Deputy secretary of State||Mayer Brown||Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher|
|Transportation||Jeffrey A. Rosen||Deputy secretary||Kirkland & Ellis LLP|
|Transportation||Steven Gill Bradbury||General Counsel||Dechert LLP|
|Treasury||Brent McIntosh||General counsel||Sullivan & Cromwell||White House (George W. Bush)||Justice Department|
|Treasury||Brian Richard Callanan||Deputy general counsel||Cooper & Kirk PLLC||U.S. Senate||King & Spalding LLP|
|Treasury||Heath P. Tarbert||Assistant secretary for international markets and development||Allen & Overy LLP|
|Treasury||Martha M. Pacold||Deputy general counsel||Bartlit Beck Herman Palenchar Scott|
|Treasury||Sigal Mandelker||Under secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence||Proskauer Rose|
|US Trade Representative||Stephen P Vaughn||General counsel||King & Spalding LLP||Skadden, Arps|
|Veterans Affairs||James Byrne||General counsel||Lockheed Martin|
|White House||Andrew Olmem||Special Assistant to the President for Financial Policy||Venable LLP||U.S. Senate||Mayer Brown|
|White House||Annie Donaldson||Deputy Assistant to the President, Special Counsel to the President, and Chief of Staff for the Office of the White House Counse||Jones Day||Patton Boggs||Romney for President|
|White House||D.J. Gribbin||Special Assistant to the President for Infrastructure Policy||HDR Inc.||Macquarrie Group||Department of Transportation|
|White House||Don McGahn||White House Counsel||Jones Day||Patton Boggs||Federal Election Commission|
|White House||Grace Koh||Special Assistant to the President for Technology, Telecom, and Cyber-Security Policy.||U.S. House||Cox Enterprises|
|White House||Jim Carroll||Deputy Director and Acting Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy.||Ford Motor Co.||Treasury Department||White House (George W. Bush)|
|White House||John Eisenberg||Deputy Assistant to the President, National Security Council Legal Advisor, Deputy Counsel to the President for National Security Affairs||Kirkland & Ellis LLP||Justice Department|
|White House||Kevin O’Scannlain||Special Assistant to the President and Associate Counsel to the President||Chevron||DLA Piper LLP||U.S. Senate|
|White House||Lance Leggitt||Deputy Assistant to the President for Domestic Policy||Baker Donelson||White House (George W. Bush)||Health and Human Services|
|White House||Schuyler Schouten||Special Assistant to the President and Associate Counsel to the President||Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP||Henry Kissinger|
|White House||Stefan Passantino||Deputy Assistant to the President and Deputy Counsel to the President||Dentons||McKenna Long & Aldridge LLP||Newt 2012|
|White House Office of Management and Budget||Joe Grogan||Associate Director, Health Programs||Gilead||Amgen||The Marwood Group|
|White House Office of Management and Budget||Nicholas Matich||Deputy general counsel||Bancroft PLLC||Williams & Connolly LLP|