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Donald Trump, Clean Government Reformer?

By Rick Claypool

During President-Elect Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign, the media personality-turned-politician called out opponents real and perceived as “dishonest and corrupt,” “hypocrites” and “liars.” Because Trump campaigned on contrasting his supposed trustworthiness with political opponents Republican and Democrat alike, the consistency between the politician’s words and deeds bear special scrutiny, in particular with regards to campaign promises about ethics reforms and anticorruption policies.

This report documents statements made by the president-elect during campaign speeches, in the primary and presidential debates, on Twitter and elsewhere that political observers should bear in mind when weighing whether President Trump is meeting the expectations that candidate Trump raised during the campaign to persuade voters his administration would reduce special interest influence.

The statements are divided into three categories: “Drain the Swamp” (government ethics, lobbying and campaign finance reform); “Rigged” for Wall Street (the corrupting influence of Big Banks) and “Hypocrites” (attacks against opponents for siding with Wall Street and corporate special interests).

“Drain the Swamp”: Candidate Trump Statements on Government Ethics, Lobbying and Campaign Finance Reform

Candidate Trump pledged to “drain the swamp” in Washington, D.C., by instituting reforms he claims will rein in special interest influence on the U.S. political system.

Below is a sampling of the candidate’s ethics, lobbying and campaign finance reform promises.

From @realDonaldTrump on Twitter:

October 17, 2016: Donald J. Trump Details Ethics Reform Plan for Washington D.C.

“It is time to drain the swamp in Washington, D.C.”


“When Bill Clinton came into office, he signed an executive order saying if you work for the White House or a federal agency, you can’t lobby the government for 5 years after you leave. But then, President Clinton did what the Clintons always do — he rigged the system on his way out. Clinton lifted the executive order so the Clintons and their cronies like John Podesta could start raking in cash.

“So, here is what I am announcing tonight.

“First: I am going to re-institute a 5-year ban on all executive branch officials lobbying the government for 5 years after they leave government service. I am going to ask Congress to pass this ban into law so that it cannot be lifted by executive order.

“Second: I am going to ask Congress to institute its own 5-year ban on lobbying by former members of Congress and their staffs.

“Third: I am going to expand the definition of lobbyist so we close all the loopholes that former government officials use by labeling themselves consultants and advisors when we all know they are lobbyists.

“Fourth: I am going to issue a lifetime ban against senior executive branch officials lobbying on behalf of a foreign government.

“And Fifth: I am going to ask Congress to pass a campaign finance reform that prevents registered foreign lobbyists from raising money in American elections.

“Not only will we end our government corruption, but we will end the economic stagnation.

“There is another major announcement I am going to make today as part of our pledge to drain the swamp in Washington. If I am elected President, I will push for a Constitutional Amendment to impose term limits on all members of Congress.

“Decades of failure in Washington, and decades of special interest dealing, must come to an end. We have to break the cycle of corruption, and we have to give new voices a chance to go into government service. The time for Congressional term limits has arrived.”

August 18, 2016: Donand J. Trump Remarks in Charlotte, North Carolina: Building a New American Future

“On political corruption, we are going to restore honor to our government.

“In my Administration, I am going to enforce all laws concerning the protection of classified information. No one will be above the law.

“I am going to forbid senior officials from trading favors for cash by preventing them from collecting lavish speaking fees through their spouses when they serve.

“I am going to ask my senior officials to sign an agreement not to accept speaking fees from corporations with a registered lobbyist for five years after leaving office, or from any entity tied to a foreign government.”

August 16, 2016: Donald J. Trump Remarks on Creating a New and Better Future for America’s Inner Cities

“On government corruption, I am going to restore honor to our government. We’ve seen the corruption of Hillary Clinton, the mass email deletions, the pay-for-play at the State Department, the profiteering, the favors given to foreign corporations and governments at your expense. We’ve seen a former Secretary of State lie to Congress about her illegal email scheme, risk innocent American lives, and bring dishonor onto our government.

“In my Administration, I am going to enforce all laws concerning the protection of classified information. No one will be above the law.

“I am going to forbid senior officials from trading favors for cash by preventing them from collecting lavish speaking fees through their spouses when they serve.

“I am going to ask my senior officials to sign an agreement not to accept speaking fees from corporations with a registered lobbyist for five years after leaving office, or from any entity tied to a foreign government. This is all just the beginning.”

March 10, 2016: Twelfth Republican Debate in Miami

“I will say this — [the] people [who] control special interests, lobbyists, donors, they make large contributions to politicians and they have total control over those politicians. I don’t want anybody to control me but the people right out there. And I’m going to do the right thing.”


“I mean, PACs — you know, these super PACs are a disaster, by the way, folks. Very corrupt. It’s going to lead to lots of disasters. But Ted has super PACs and you have to look at the people that are giving to those super PACs, number one. It’s very important to do that.

“There is total control of the candidates, I know it better than anybody that probably ever lived. And I will tell you this, I know the system far better than anybody else and I know the system is broken. And I’m the one, because I know it so well because I was on both sides of it, I was on the other side all my life and I’ve always made large contributions.

“And frankly, I know the system better than anybody else and I’m the only one up here that’s going to be able to fix that system because that system is wrong.”

October 28, 2015: CNBC Republican Debate in Boulder

“SuperPacs are a disaster. They’re a scam. They cause dishonesty. And you better get rid of them because they are causing a lot of bad decisions to be made by some very good people. And I’m not blaming these folks — well, I guess I could.


“Very good people are making very bad decisions right now. And if anything comes out of this whole thing with some of these nasty and ridiculous questions, I will tell you, you better get rid of the SuperPacs because they causing a big problem with this country, not only in dishonesty and what’s going on, but also in a lot of bad decisions that have been made for the benefit of lobbyists and special interests.”

“Rigged” for Wall Street: Candidate Trump’s Statements About the Corrupting Influence of Big Banks

Candidate Trump presented himself as an underdog by claiming political opponents’ alleged allegiance with Wall Street represented an unacceptable conflict of interest. Branding himself an outsider, Trump insisted that his supposed dissociation from Wall Street contributions made him uniquely qualified to restore fairness to the political system.

Below is a sampling of the candidate’s promises to restore fairness and combat Wall Street influence.

September 28, 2016: “Follow the Money” remarks delivered in Waukesha, Wisconsin

Our campaign is about breaking-up the special interest monopoly in Washington, D.C. We’re trying to disrupt the collusion between the wealthy donors, the large corporations, and the media executives.

“They’re all part of the same rigged political establishment. They go to the same restaurants, they attend the same conferences, they have the same friends and connections. And they are all in for a big day of reckoning on November 8th.”

August 27, 2016: Donald Trump’s full remarks in Des Moines, Iowa

“This chance will never come again.

“The Big Banks and Wall Street donors who want nothing to change are throwing millions and millions at my opponent. These are the same people who paid Bill and Hillary Clinton $150 million for speeches.

“Hillary Clinton’s campaign is all about protecting the powerful.

“Our campaign is about protecting those who have no power.

“Together, we are going to give working people a voice for the first time in a very, very long time.”


“At the center of our change agenda is also a plan to fix our rigged economy.

“The government just revised the growth numbers for last quarter down again — it’s now only 1.1 percent. That’s not just bad, it’s catastrophic. We’re going to Make America Grow Again.”


“We are going to send the special interests packing, and we are going to once again have a government of, by, and for the people.”


“On every issue, our campaign is about making life better for working people. But we can’t accomplish that goal unless we break-up the special interest monopoly and give power back to the citizens.”


“All of the ugly things being said by Hillary Clinton in recent days — funded by big banks and Wall Street donors — are nothing more than a desperate attempt by failed leaders to cling to power in order to keep rigging the system.

“There is nothing they won’t say or do, no lie they won’t tell — and no amount of money they won’t spend — to try to bully voters into giving them what they want.”


“Our government will be honest, ethical and responsive.

“Rule by special interests will be over. The rule of the American people will begin.

August 16, 2016: Donald J. Trump Remarks on Creating a New and Better Future for America’s Inner Cities

“I’m not part of the corrupt system. In fact, the corrupt system is trying to stop me. I’ve been paying my own way. The voters in the Republican Party this year defied the donors, the consultants, the power brokers, and choose a nominee from outside our failed and corrupt and broken system.

“The other party — the Democratic Party — nominated the personification of special interest corruption. The Democratic Party rigged the nomination to give it to Hillary Clinton, thus giving the soul of their party this year to the special interests.

“It is time for rule by the people, not rule by special interests.

“Every insider, getting rich off of our broken system, is throwing money at Hillary Clinton. The hedge fund managers, the Wall Street investors, the professional political class.

“It’s the powerful protecting the powerful.

“Insiders fighting for insiders.

“I am fighting for you.

“When we talk about the insider, who are we talking about? It’s the comfortable politicians looking out for their own interests. It’s the lobbyists who know how to insert that perfect loophole into every bill. It’s the financial industry that knows how to regulate their competition out of existence. The insiders also include the media executives, anchors and journalists in Washington, Los Angeles, and New York City, who are part of the same failed status quo and want nothing to change.

“Every day you pick up a newspaper, or turn on the nightly news, and you hear about some self-interest banker or some discredited Washington insider says they oppose our campaign. Or some encrusted old politician says they oppose our campaign. Or some big time lobbyist says they oppose our campaign.

“I wear their opposition as a badge of honor. Because it means I am fighting for REAL change, not just partisan change. I am fighting — all of us across the country are fighting — for peaceful regime change in our own country. The media-donor-political complex that’s bled this country dry has to be replaced with a new government of, by and for the people.

“The leadership class in Washington D.C., of which Hillary Clinton has been a member for thirty years, has abandoned the people of this country.

“I am going to give the people their voice back.”

August 8, 2016: Economic policy speech to Detroit Economic Club

“The rich will pay their fair share, but no one will pay so much that it destroys jobs, or undermines our ability to compete. As part of this reform, we will eliminate the Carried Interest Deduction and other special interest loopholes that have been so good for Wall Street investors, and people like me, but unfair to American workers.”


“We can’t fix a rigged system by relying on the people who rigged it in the first place. We can’t solve our problems by relying on the politicians who created them. Only by changing to new leadership, and new solutions, will we get new results. We need to stop believing in politicians, and start believing in America. Before everything great that has ever happened, the doubters have always said it couldn’t be done.”

June 28, 2016: Donald Trump’s jobs plan speech

“This wave of globalization has wiped out our middle class.

“It doesn’t have to be this way. We can turn it all around — and we can turn it around fast.

“But if we’re going to deliver real change, we’re going to have to reject the campaign of fear and intimidation being pushed by powerful corporations, media elites, and political dynasties.

“The people who rigged the system for their benefit will do anything — and say anything — to keep things exactly as they are.

“The people who rigged the system are supporting Hillary Clinton because they know as long as she is in charge nothing will ever change.

“The inner cities will remain poor.

“The factories will remain closed.

“The borders will remain open.

“The special interests will remain firmly in control.

“Hillary Clinton and her friends in global finance want to scare America into thinking small — and they want to scare the American people out of voting for a better future.

“My campaign has the opposite message.”


“I want you to imagine how much better our future can be if we declare independence from the elites who’ve led us to one financial and foreign policy disaster after another.”


“The TPP creates a new international commission that makes decisions the American people can’t veto.

“These commissions are great Hillary Clinton’s Wall Street funders who can spend vast amounts of money to influence the outcomes.”

June 22, 2016: Donald J. Trump on the Stakes of the Election

“Everywhere I look, I see the possibilities of what our country could be. But we can’t solve any of these problems by relying on the politicians who created them.

“We will never be able to fix a rigged system by counting on the same people who rigged it in the first place.

“The insiders wrote the rules of the game to keep themselves in power and in the money.

“That’s why we’re asking Bernie Sanders’ voters to join our movement: so together we can fix the system for ALL Americans. Importantly, this includes fixing all of our many disastrous trade deals.

“Because it’s not just the political system that’s rigged. It’s the whole economy.

“It’s rigged by big donors who want to keep down wages.

“It’s rigged by big businesses who want to leave our country, fire our workers, and sell their products back into the U.S. with absolutely no consequences for them.

“It’s rigged by bureaucrats who are trapping kids in failing schools.

“It’s rigged against you, the American people.

“This election will decide whether we are ruled by the people, or by the politicians.

“Here is my promise to the American voter:

“If I am elected President, I will end the special interest monopoly in Washington, D.C.”

January 9, 2016: Iowa Campaign Speech

“I know Wall Street. I know the people on Wall Street. We’re going to have the greatest negotiators of the world, but at the same time I’m not going to let Wall Street get away with murder. Wall Street has caused tremendous problems for us. We’re going to tax Wall Street.”


“I don’t care about the Wall Street guy […] I’m not taking any of their money.”

September 13, 2015: Interview on Face the Nation

“But I know companies very well. And the CEO puts in all his friends. And so you will take a company like, I could say Macy’s or many other companies, where they put in their friends as head of the company, and they get whatever they want, because the friends love sitting on the board.

“So that’s a system that we have. And it’s a shame and it’s disgraceful. And, sometimes, the boards rule. But I would say it’s probably less than 10 percent. And you see these guys making these enormous amounts of money. It’s a total and complete joke.”


“We have an amazing tax plan. We’re going to reducing taxes for the middle class, but for the hedge fund guys, they’re going to be paying up.”

“Hypocrites”: Candidate Trump’s Attacks on Opponents for Siding with Wall Street and Corporate Special Interests

While Candidate Trump branded himself as a uniquely honest political underdog and an outsider who would prioritize the people’s interest over corporate special interests, he labeled his opponents as dishonest and hopelessly corrupt servants of big business.

Below is a sampling of the candidate’s attacks against opponents for their dishonesty and corruption.

September 28, 2016: “Follow the Money” remarks delivered in Waukesha, Wisconsin

“Everything you need to know about Hillary Clinton can be understood with this simple phrase: Follow The Money.

“The large corporations who support terrible trade deals that offshore jobs — they are donating to Hillary Clinton.

“Follow The Money.

“The Wall Street investors who have rigged the regulations against the middle class — they are donating to Hillary Clinton.

“Follow The Money.

“The wealthy donors who want to shut down American energy — they are donating to Hillary Clinton.

“Follow The Money.

“The special interests who want open borders, for cheap labor, are donating to Hillary Clinton.

“Follow The Money.

“She and her financial backers will say anything, do anything, lie about anything to keep their grip on power — to keep their control over this country.

“In her campaign for President, Hillary Clinton has received $100 million dollars in contributions from Wall Street and the hedge funds.

“She received $4.1 million in speaking fees from financial firms.

“She and Bill received a total of $150 million in speaking fees from special interests since Bill left office. It’s all part of the rigged system being run at your expense.

“The same groups paying Bill and Hillary for their speeches were lobbying the federal government.

“Twenty-two groups paying Bill Clinton for speeches lobbied the State Department while Hillary was Secretary of State.

“And don’t forget the Clinton contributors were appointed to advisory boards by Secretary Clinton — or all the favors and access granted to those who provided funds.

“She even gave up 20% of America’s uranium supply to Russia.

“She put the office of Secretary of State up for sale — and if she ever got the chance, she’d put the Oval Office up for sale too.

“Hillary Clinton is a vessel for the special interests trying to strip this country of its wealth, its jobs, and its status as a sovereign nation. She is a globalist who has made a career taking jobs from our country and giving them to other countries.

“I am not running to be President of the World. I am running to be President of the United States of America.

“From now on, it’s going to be America First.

“These special interests control Hillary Clinton. She is their chosen representative.

“You can disregard everything she says and just remember this phrase: Follow The Money. She’s there for only one reason, to protect her donors and collect their money.


“The people getting rich off the rigged system are the people throwing their money at Hillary Clinton.

“Follow the Money.”

June 22, 2016: Donald J. Trump on the Stakes of the Election

“The other candidate in this race has spent her entire life making money for special interests — and taking money from special interests.

“Hillary Clinton has perfected the politics of personal profit and theft.

“She ran the State Department like her own personal hedge fund — doing favors for oppressive regimes, and many others, in exchange for cash.

“Then, when she left, she made $21.6 million giving speeches to Wall Street banks and other special interests — in less than 2 years — secret speeches that she does not want to reveal to the public.

“Together, she and Bill made $153 million giving speeches to lobbyists, CEOs, and foreign governments in the years since 2001.

“They totally own her, and that will never change.

“The choice in this election is a choice between taking our government back from the special interests, or surrendering our last scrap of independence to their total and complete control.

“Those are the stakes.”

June 16, 2016: Donald J. Trump Statement On AFL-CIO Endorsement of Hillary Clinton

“Sadly with this endorsement of Hillary Clinton — who is totally owned by Wall Street — the leadership of the AFL-CIO has made clear that it no longer represents American workers. Instead they have become part of the rigged system in Washington, D.C. that benefits only the insiders.


“Hillary Clinton is the enemy of working people and is the best friend Wall Street ever had. I will fight harder for American workers than anyone ever has, and I will fight for their right to elect leaders who will do the same. I will be a president for ALL Americans.”

Tweets from @realDonaldTrump Attacking Secretary Hillary Clinton:

Tweets from @realDonaldTrump Attacking Senator Ted Cruz: