What We Found in Trump’s Drained Swamp: Hundreds of Ex-Lobbyists and D.C. Insiders

–by Derek Kravitz, Al Shaw and Isaac Arnsdorf, ProPublica

When the Trump administration took office early last year, hundreds of staffers from lobbying firms, conservative think tanks and Trump campaign groups began pouring into the very agencies they once lobbied or whose work they once opposed.

Today we’re making available, for the first time, an authoritative searchable database of 2,475 political appointees, including Trump’s Cabinet, staffers in the White House and senior officials within the government, along with their federal lobbying and financial records. Trump Town is the result of a year spent filing hundreds of Freedom of Information Act requests; collecting and organizing staffing lists; and compiling, sifting through and publishing thousands of financial disclosure reports.

Here’s what we found: At least 187 Trump political appointees have been federal lobbyists, and despite President Trump’s campaign pledge to “drain the swamp,” many are now overseeing the industries they once lobbied on behalf of. We’ve also discovered ethics waivers that allow Trump staffers to work on subjects in which they have financial conflicts of interest. In addition, at least 254 appointees affiliated with Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and at least 125 staffers from prominent conservative think tanks are now working in the federal government, many of whom are on teams to repeal Obama-era regulations.

Drilling down even further, at least 35 Trump political appointees worked for or consulted with groups affiliated with the the billionaire libertarian brothers Charles and David Koch, who also have a network of advocacy groups, nonprofits, private companies and political action committees. At least 25 Trump appointees came from the influential Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank founded in 1973, and at least two came from Heritage Action, its related political nonprofit. Heritage says the Trump administration, in just its first year, has enacted nearly two-thirds of its 334 policy recommendations.

We also found — for the first time — dozens of special-government employees, or SGEs, who work as paid consultants or experts for federal agencies while keeping their day jobs in the private sector. This rare government gig allows them to legally work for both industry and the Trump administration at the same time. Under the Obama administration, Huma Abedin, the longtime aide to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, benefited from this policy while simultaneously working at the State Department, the Clinton Foundation and a corporate consulting firm, drawing scrutiny from the Senate Judiciary Committee and the Government Accountability Office.

Roughly 60 percent of the Trump administration officials included in our analysis have financial disclosure reports. We have requested these reports for the rest. Since our last update of financial disclosure records in August, we have added 660 such reports from across the government.

We also did a more limited version of this project in 2009, at the start of the Obama administration. As part of this year’s analysis, we compared the number of appointees in the first year of both the Obama and Trump administrations who had been active lobbyists in the two years prior to their nomination for Senate-confirmed government jobs. Even though the Trump administration has lagged significantly behind previous administrations in appointing people for such positions, more Trump appointees were recent lobbyists than Obama appointees: Trump had 18 in his first year, while Obama had 14.

“Focusing on novel scandals alone can distract from the enormous scale of the Trump administration’s embrace of revolving-door hiring,” said Jeff Hauser, executive director of the Revolving Door Project at the nonpartisan Center for Economic and Policy Research.

The pipelines between conservative policy think tanks — namely the Heritage Foundation and the Koch Brothers’ Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce — and the Trump administration are clear, as is their effect on federal policy.

Just before Trump took office last January, Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce, one of the main conservative advocacy groups funded by the Koch Brothers, unveiled a deregulatory wish list. The action plan highlighted 19 Obama-era policies affecting the environment, labor and technology that Freedom Partners wanted gone. “This strategy can help to unravel eight years of regulatory overreach starting immediately,” the organization’s vice president, Andy Koenig, wrote in an accompanying press release.

A few weeks later, Koenig joined the White House as a policy assistant, putting him in a position to implement his former employer’s agenda. Sure enough, just over a year later, the administration has acted on 16 of the 19 suggestions that Freedom Partners listed.

The moratorium on federal coal leases? Lifted. The Paris climate agreement? Withdrawn. The Clean Power Plan? Repealed. The FCC’s net neutrality policy, the EPA’s Waters of the United States rule, and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s arbitration rules? All reversed.

Freedom Partners and the White House didn’t respond to requests for comment.

The Trump campaign had a small staff and was light on policy chops, so it leaned heavily on personnel from the Koch network and the Heritage Foundation during the transition. “When you have a president committed to strong deregulatory policy, there’s no better place to figure out what regulations put a stranglehold on the economy than to go to the Koch network and the Heritage Foundation,” said Marc Lampkin, the co-chair of Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck’s lobbying practice and a former aide to House Speaker John Boehner. “It makes perfect sense that they would be part of the intellectual breeding ground for the administration.”

The Heritage Foundation has touted its influence over Trump’s agenda. On Jan. 23, the organization said the Trump administration embraced two-thirds of the 334 policy recommendations in its “Mandate for Leadership,” such as shrinking national monuments in Utah, preventing taxpayer funding for international groups involved in abortion (known as the Mexico City Policy), raising military spending, and withdrawing from UNESCO.

Heritage cited the efforts of about 70 of its former employees working throughout the transition and administration. Our analysis found 28 officials who used to work at the Heritage Foundation and its advocacy arm, Heritage Action.

Not all political appointments are announced. In digging through lists of special-government employees, we found several in key positions in the Trump administration, including Wendy Teramoto, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross’s chief of staff and a longtime aide at his private equity firm; James D. Ray, a George W. Bush-era staffer who worked as an unpaid consultant at the Department of Transportation while keeping his job as a principal in KPMG’s infrastructure consulting practice; and Leonard Wolfson, who was lobbying on behalf of the Mortgage Bankers Association on Capitol Hill one week before getting paid $64 per hour as an expert at the Department of Housing and Urban Development the next week.

Wolfson’s case is a prime example of the inherent business conflicts in such arrangements: Wolfson is a well-known housing lobbyist among House Republicans and served in the Bush administration at HUD from 2005 to 2008. Senate records show Wolfson was actively lobbying on banking legislation and regulatory issues in April and May.

By mid-May, Wolfson had taken a relatively rare position as an outside “expert” at HUD while he was still employed at the 2,200-member lobbying group. To take the HUD gig, Wolfson took an unpaid leave from the Mortgage Bankers Association. He didn’t fully resign from the group until July 31.

At HUD, Wolfson worked on getting nominees for senior positions at the agency through the backlogged and slow Senate confirmation process, according to HUD officials.

Reached for comment, a HUD spokesman denied there was any conflict. “There was absolutely no overlap,” said Brian Sullivan. “He took one hat off and put another one on.”

His paid government consulting work this past summer was not previously disclosed. And in December, Wolfson himself was appointed and confirmed as HUD’s assistant secretary for congressional and intergovernmental relations.

We’re releasing Trump Town as a resource for journalists, researchers and the public. Its goal: to increase understanding of who the current administration’s taxpayer-funded decision-makers are and how their work histories and financial holdings might influence public policy.

ProPublica is a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative newsroom. Sign up for their newsletter.

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Staffing the State Department: Campaign Staffers and Supporters Find a New Home

Posted: 1:16 am ET
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We’ve previously posted in this blog the names of the Trump landing team at the State Department (see Trump Transition: Agency Landing Team For @StateDept Includes Old Familiar NamesTrump Transition: Additional Agency Landing Team Members For @StateDept).

On March 8, ProPublica released the names of more than 400 individuals who were hired by the Trump Administration across the federal government. These jobs do not require Senate confirmation.  ProPublica notes that its list represents Trump administration hires primarily made between Jan. 20 and Jan. 30, according to the Office of Personnel Management. It also says that at least a few of the officials have since moved to other agencies or left the government. The names were obtained via Freedom of Information Act requests to federal agencies.

Below are the names from the ProPublica list hired at the State Department.  Based on this list, it looks like only one from the Trump Landing Team (Ambassador Charles Glazer) has remained at the State Department as senior advisor. The rest of the names appear to include mostly former Trump campaign staffers. Note that GS for Grade level refers to the pay scale for federal employees. SES stands for Senior Executive Service, who serve in top positions the government.

If you have any information about members of the Trump beachhead teams or their roles in the agencies, contact ProPublica at beachhead@propublica.org to add to their list or via Signal at (774)-826-6240. Here is a guide for how to leak to ProPublica.

Via ProPublica

State Michael Dougherty (see) Senior Advisor GS-15 1/23/17
State John Eanes Senior Advisor SES 1/20/17
State Emily Eng (see) Staff Assistant GS-11 1/26/17
State Matthew Flynn Special Assistant GS-14 1/20/17
State Katherine Giblin Special Assistant GS-14 1/20/17
State Charles Glazer Senior Advisor GS-15 1/20/17
State Julia Haller Senior Advisor GS-15 1/23/17
State Jennifer Hazelton (see) Special Assistant GS-14 1/23/17
State Abigayle Jones (see) Staff Assistant GS-12 1/20/17
State Federico Klein (see) Staff Assistant GS-09 1/23/17
State Amanda Middlemas Special Assistant GS-13 1/24/17
State Hunter Morgen (see) Staff Assistant GS-07 1/20/17
State Matthew Mowers (see) Senior Advisor SES 1/20/17
State Christina Perrone (see) Senior Advisor GS-15 1/23/17
State Margaret Peterlin (see) Senior Advisor SES 1/25/17
State Pamela Pryor (see) Senior Advisor GS-15 1/20/17
State Jack Sewell (see) Staff Assistant GS-07 1/20/17
State Jared Smith (see) Staff Assistant GS-11 1/23/17
State Danielle Stoebe Staff Assistant GS-05 1/20/17
State Robert Wasinger (see) Senior Advisor GS-15 1/20/17
State Katheryn Wellner Special Advisor to Transition GS-15 1/23/17

 

Related items:

 

Joseph Cassidy’s Twelve Tips For Surviving Life In The New Foggy Bottom – Plus Gifs

Posted: 3:55  am ET
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The last time we wrote about Joseph Cassidy (@cassidyjosephp) in this blog was when we picked the best lines from his “10 Ways to Fix America’s Ailing State Department” in July 2015. He served 25 years in the Foreign Service. He joined the Service in 1989 and previously served in Georgetown, Nairobi, Windhoek, OSCE, USUN and Baghdad. He also served at IO, DRL, the WH, and as Special Assistant to P, INR and the Executive Secretariat. He is currently a fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.  The following is an excerpt from his recent FP/Argument piece; we added some gifs. Read in full here: How to Be a Loyal State Department Bureaucrat in the Trump Administration and Keep a Clear Conscience.

At the State Department, where Trump has nominated ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson as secretary, there is trepidation among career officers that a politicized workplace could force them to choose among their loyalties to the incoming president, the State Department as an institution, and national interests. Although career foreign service and civil service personnel are accustomed to operating amid layers of institutional equities, their primary loyalty must be to the Constitution — the subject of the oath, dating in its current form to 1884, that all employees swear.

To friends and former colleagues at State, particularly new officers who have not previously served through a change of administrations, here are a few suggestions regarding how to reconcile professional loyalties:

 

#1. Engage incoming political appointees.

nothingwrong

 

#2. Defend the institution.

giphy_communicate

 

#3. Fix what’s broken.

fixwhatsbroken

 

#4. Reconcile yourself to life in a large organization.

adorable_cdn

 

#5. If you can’t deal, leave.

 

#6. But if you’re going to stay, serve with professionalism.

Image via Giphy

Image via Giphy

 

#7. Fight for what you believe in.

giphy_courage
 

#8. Create a paper trail.

i-give-up

 

#9. Use the Dissent Channel process.

wrong

 

#10. Should employment become intolerable, honorably resign.

cwkss_TY

 

#11. Above all, prevail.

ll1ucy_reaction gifs

 

#12. Oh, and also redecorate.
As long as a real estate developer used to living in a gilded penthouse is president, State might as well seek funding to replace the linoleum hallway floors and the tired aluminum blinds. In its current dilapidated condition, the Truman building is just sad.

Seriously, read the full piece here: How to Be a Loyal State Department Bureaucrat in the Trump Administration and Keep a Clear Conscience.

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69th Secretary of State Race: New Names Include Stavridis, Huntsman, Tillerson, Manchin #dazzle&wow

Posted: 12:58 ET
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In addition to the new names floated today, Politico is reporting that “whoever ultimately gets the top job at the State Department, multiple Trump transition sources said former United Nations ambassador John Bolton is widely expected to be offered a chance to be slotted in as one of the secretary’s top deputies, if not as the No. 2.”  Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif., is reportedly also likely to be offered a lower post in the State Department, according to unnamed Politico sources.  Also as has been reported previously, Giuliani has told the Trump team directly that he isn’t interested in any other job than secretary of state.  As of this writing, Predictit still has Romney leading the pack, followed by Huntsman, Giuliani, Corker, Bolton, Petraeus, Rohrabacher, Tillerson and Manchin.

Howaboutthisguy? He razzle dazzle, hey? This is pretty doable for the 8th Floor, right?

The Funnies, not funnies over on Twitter:

For Foreign Diplomats, Trump WashingtonDC Hotel Is the Place To Be

Posted: 12:25 am ET
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For those interested in the subject of conflicts of interest and the presidency, here is a good read from the Congressional Research Service:

Does federal law require the President to relinquish control of his or her business interests? Federal regulation of financial conflicts of interest is aimed at preventing opportunities for officials to personally benefit from influence they may have in their official capacity. As a general rule, public officials in the executive branch are subject to criminal penalties if they personally and substantially participate in matters in which they (or their immediate families, business partners or associated organizations) hold financial interests. However, because of concerns regarding interference with the exercise of constitutional duties, Congress has not applied these restrictions to the President. Consequently, there is no current legal requirement that would compel the President to relinquish financial interests because of a conflict of interest.

Read more:

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On the Prospect of Mass Resignations: A Veteran FSO Cautions Against Rash Decisions

Posted: 12:49 pm ET
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We asked yesterday if the prospect of mass resignations is a real thing (see Inauguration Day Countdown: Is the prospect of mass resignations a real thing?  A veteran FSO who we admire a great deal shared with us his thoughts on the issue of morale and the prospect of an exodus from the Foreign Service of officers unwilling or unable to reconcile with the thought of working in the DJT administration. We are sharing the following with his permission:

On the specific question of the prospect of mass resignations: I think a lot of it depends on where an officer is at in their career. Standing on principle costs more at some times of your life than at others. I can see the light at the end of my career; I have ever-hungrier mouths to feed; my career prospects outside of the FS are a relative mystery to me. I work in a career track that doesn’t often put me in a position of delivering demarches on policy approaches I find objectionable.

But I think it is possible we’ll see resignations among two groups: first, amongst officers who joined in the last five years. Many are already unhappy with the fact that promotions will be slow for some time, given the massive intake of officers in recent years. Working for a decade as a FS-03 in a John Bolton-run State Department (for example) isn’t going to improve their mood. They are young, bright, idealistic, and are unlikely to — in their view — sell out just for the pleasure of public service. The second group I suspect might see resignations are those eligible for retirement. If you are an FS-01 or SFS who has been tossing around the idea of moving on, it seems entirely plausible that the election results might push you over the edge, all other things being equal.

But I want to make something very clear: I’ve been around long enough to have served under several presidential administrations, and the talk of mass resignations percolates anytime we’ve got a nail-biter election result or a controversial new war. But I have to say what I am seeing in the aftermath of Election 2016 is qualitatively different.

Many FSOs disagreed vociferously with the Iraq War; at various times with our approach to the Israeli-Palestinian issue; with our massive HR commitment to PSP missions, just to name a few. A few people resigned from time to time. But never have I witnessed the visceral emotional response from as many FSOs to an event or policy as I have in the last two weeks. We’re a diverse workforce, and given the rhetoric of this campaign, many took the victory of a candidate who spouted misogynistic, racist, xenophobic, isolationist bombast at every turn very, very personally. It is no exaggeration to say this triggered an existential crisis for a fair number of officers without significant time invested in the FS and soul-searching about whether this really is the career for them. As a veteran, I viewed it as my responsibility to help contextualize current events, to urge my charges not to make rash decisions in the heat of the moment, to reconsider the oaths they had taken and their commitment to the nation and the American people, regardless of who sits in the White House.

January 20 is a long way off. I hope once colleagues have had the time to absorb and process November 8, they will return fully engaged and recommitted, because Lord knows we’re going to need their energy and expertise in the coming years.

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Some clips to read:

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Inauguration Day Countdown: Is the prospect of mass resignations a real thing?

Posted: 12:06 pm ET
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Via Politico:

Foreign policy veterans may be in especially high demand at the State Department, where career foreign service officers have talked for months about whether they could serve under a President Donald Trump—a debate many considered academic but which now presents them with a grueling choice between their values and their country.

The prospect of mass resignations “is a real thing,” according to one career diplomat who has had several such conversations with State Department colleagues.

Eliot Cohen, an influential Republican who served as counsellor to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and who vehemently opposed Trump, urged longtime diplomatic and national security professionals not to quit in disgust.

“Career people, I think, have an obligation to serve faithfully, and not least to ensure that the principles and letter of our Constitutional system of government are respected,” Cohen said.

Via DPB:

QUESTION:  — I mean, do you expect an exodus from this building over the next few weeks?  I mean, there’s a lot of people that feel that Trump’s – that what he said he was going to do going forward doesn’t gel with how they believe.  So is there any evidence of it yet?  Have you got notices or do you expect —

MR TONER:  Sure.  Well, it’s a valid question.  I wouldn’t attempt to speak for my colleagues in the State Department.  I’m a career diplomat.  I’m a public servant.  And with that, frankly, comes an awareness that you’re there to serve the U.S. Government regardless of whether they – that’s a Republican or a Democratic administration.  Obviously, there are political appointees in the State Department, but I can tell you that what I’ve seen firsthand this morning is very serious professionalism and commitment, as I said, to making sure that this incoming administration, whether these people agree with their policies or not, are given every opportunity for a smooth transition and are as informed as possible before that transition takes place.
[…]
QUESTION:  — as has been mentioned here today, the president-elect differs so greatly on so many issues: Iran, trade, climate, Cuba, Syria, NATO alliances, nuclear proliferation – just basic tenets of the things that – and assumptions that this Administration has been working under.  What about – if you haven’t seen people saying, “I’m leaving today,” career diplomats, which is what I gather you’re saying, are you and is the Secretary worried about morale in these last days?  He – the first thing in his statement basically tells people, his staff, to continue focus moving ahead.  So given the disparity between the president-elect and this Administration, what do you see the morale here being in the coming days and weeks?

MR TONER:  Look, I think – again, it’s a fair question.  I think when you choose a path of public service, you do so with the recognition that – and again, I’m not speaking to the incoming administration or the present Administration – you have to compartmentalize your own political beliefs from your professional duties.  That is something that is incumbent on any public servant, whether it’s at the State Department or any other federal agency, or the military for that matter.  That’s what, frankly, provides continuity and institutional knowledge for our government.  So I wouldn’t predict any mass exodus, far from it.

I think that under Secretary Kerry and under President Obama and under Secretary Clinton as well, this State Department has achieved great things.  I think they’re focused on continuing to work on the priorities.  Some of the urgent ones, like getting a ceasefire or a cessation of hostilities in Syria that is attainable in two months, or next week, if we can get there through our multilateral efforts.  I don’t think any – there’s any kind of attitude that – of resignation or of – or any other attitude other than that, focused on the priorities of this Administration and ensuring that the new administration, incoming administration, has a smooth transition.

Video below, transcript of the DPB here: http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/dpb/2016/11/264198.htm.

We are aware that some  folks are considering whether to stay or to leave, below are some clips that might be helpful:

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