By Alan Zibel
Call us crazy, but President Trump does not seem to take his often-repeated “drain the swamp” promise seriously.
Don’t take it from us. That’s what his close advisers say.
“If you had to put them into chronological order, drain the swamp is probably somewhere down the bottom,” compared with other Trump priorities, former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski said before Trump’s inauguration.
And former Trump adviser Steve Bannon recently recalled that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told Trump not to use the “drain the swamp” theme in a post-election meeting.
The sad reality is that, instead of presaging a crackdown on lobbyists, Trump’s election was the opportunity of a lifetime for people in the influence business. Those with ties to Trump are racing to engage in the same behavior that Trump decried on the campaign trail: cashing in on insider connections, according to a report released today by Public Citizen. (Report, Press Release)
Based on an analysis of domestic and foreign lobbying reports, our findings are:
- 44 individuals with ties to Trump or Pence have acted as registered lobbyists in 2017. They are connected to billings and in-house lobbying expenditures in 2017 of nearly $42 million, with $32.2 million coming from domestic sources and $9.5 million from foreign entities.
- Seven of the 10 most lucrative lobbying clients for Trump or Pence-connected lobbyists have been foreign interests.
- At least 22 people who worked on the Trump transition team have worked as registered lobbyists so far in 2017. They are associated with $19 million in billings.
- At least five members of the Trump transition team were reported on federal lobbying forms covering the transition period as “no longer expected” to work as lobbyists, yet resumed lobbying for the same clients in the first half of 2017.
- At least four members of the Trump transition team or administration have said that they never signed ethics pledges that laid out restrictions on lobbying.
- Newcomers to Washington lobbying are prospering. For example, Brian Ballard, a well-known Florida lobbyist who had represented the Trump Organization in the Sunshine State, had never before acted as a federal lobbyist. After Trump was elected, Ballard opened a Washington, D.C., office, which billed 36 clients $5.2 million in the first half of 2017.
- Lobbyists in Vice President Mike Pence’s circle are also seeing an influx of new clients. Robert Grand, an Indianapolis lawyer and a longtime fundraiser for Vice President Mike Pence had acted as a lobbyist in recent years but had not signed a new federal client since 2013. So far in 2017, Grand signed 17 new clients.
See below for a breakout of lobbyists in the Trump circle:
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