When Will the Trump Administration Tell the Whole Truth About Its Conflicts of Interest?

The Trump administration appears intent on not telling the public much of anything about its ethics policies.

Unlike the wave of unjustified (and even undated) waivers for White House personnel readily granted by the White House counsel, the agency waivers released today and approved by ethics officers outside the White House include relatively untroubling matters, with a few possible exceptions.

We don’t know whether other waivers should have been granted, or if the vast number of conflicted officials in the administration are following recusal standards that avoid the need for waivers, or if the administration just hasn’t gotten around to doing enough actual work to require waivers.

What we do know is that conflicts of interest and revolving door problems are pervasive in the thinly staffed administration, from the corporate Cabinet to second- and third-tier positions, including nomination of a lawyer who represented BP in the Gulf disaster to head the U.S. Department of Justice’s environment division.

Indeed, for the Trump administration, conflicts of interest seem to be qualifications for a position.

The administration affirmatively aims to put the fox in charge of the henhouse – that is, to have representatives and lawyers from regulated corporations in charge of making regulatory, enforcement and policy decisions related to those businesses.

A summary of ethics waivers for 10 Trump administration officials released by the Office of Government ethics is below. But these waivers don’t even begin to illustrate the story of extensive Trump administration conflicts.

For example, Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price has significant conflicts related to the pharmaceutical industry, which aren’t implicated by the waiver. And Noel Francisco, the nominee for Solicitor General, has represented the tobacco industry among a raft of corporate clients, but issues related to these significant conflicts aren’t covered by his waiver.

NAMEDATESAGENCYJOB TITLEBIOSCOPE OF WAIVERNATURE OF CONFLICT
Anthony Sayegh3/9/2017, 3/15/2017TreasuryAssistant Secretary for Public AffairsFormer Fox News ContributorAllows Sayegh to interact with Fox NewsConnection/relationship with former employer, Fox News
Brian Calllanan3/24/2017, 3/29/2017TreasuryDeputy General Counsel and Treasury "regulatory reform" officerFormer staff director and general counsel of Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, briefly partner at Cooper & Kirk PLLCPermits participation in Treasury's housing finance reform policy discussions despite Cooper & Kirk PLLC pending litigation against Treasury and FHFACooper & Kirk PLLC
Chad Readler2/6/2017, 2/15/2017DOJActing Assistant Attorney GeneralFormer Jones Day partnerAllows Readler to participate in immigration case before Supreme Court despite Jones Day amicus brief on behalf of nonprofit orgs involved in case.Jones Day
Heather (Nauert) Norby4/6/2017, 4/26/2017StateSpokespersonFormer Fox News and "Fox and Friends" contributorAllows Norby to interact with Fox NewsFox News
John Kelly5/13/2017Homeland SecuritySecretaryMilitary, a general who served in IraqAllows Kelly to interact with members of Australia's governmentKelly was paid by the government of Australia to be a Senior Course Mentor for the Australian Defense Joint Task Force Commanders course.
Lance Leggitt4/24/2017HHSChief of StaffFormer health care lobbyist at Baker DonelsonAllows him to work on issue areas he lobbed on but must recuse himself from particular matters related to law firm clients.Lobbied for health care clients
Mike Murray2/9/17DOJCounsel to the Deputy Attorney GeneralFormer Jones Day associateAllows Francisco to participate in legal work related to Trump's travel ban despite Jones Day amicus brief in case on behalf of law professorsJones Day amicus brief
Noel Francisco2/6/17, 2/7/17, 2/19/17JusticePrincipal Deputy Solicitor General/Nominee For Solicitor GeneralFormer Jones Day partnerAllows Francisco to participate in Trump travel ban as well as immigration case before Supreme Court despite Jones Day amicus briefs.Jones Day amicus brief; stock holdings in tech firms represented by Jones Day in amicus brief
Seema Verma3/14/2017Centers for Medicare & Medicaid ServicesAdministratorFormer consultantAllows interactions with state officialsDid consulting work for Arkansas, Indiana, Iowa,
Kentucky, Ohio, South Carolina, Virginia
Tom Price42807HHSSecretaryFormer CongressmanAllows interactions with state officialsPrice's wife, Betty, is a Georgia state lawmaker