Forum Spotlights Trump Administration's Ethics Deficit

Written by Scott Zimmerman on May 25, 2017

Ethics thumbnail for issue buckets

American democracy is becoming a money-making enterprise for wealthy private interests and possibly Russians, according to a panel of lawmakers and public interest advocates who spoke at a press briefing and forum on Capitol Hill this morning.

“The Trump administration is now reflective of what’s going on around the world; you have governments being turned into money making organizations.” said U.S. Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-MD.  

Common Cause and Public Citizen co-hosted the “Who Pays the Cost” event, which largely focused on President Donald Trump’s management - or lack of management - of conflicts between his business interests and his new responsibilities as the nation’s chief executive.

Panelists including Rep. Keith Ellison, D-MI, former White House Counsel Richard Painter, Common Cause President Karen Hobert Flynn and Craig Holman of Public Citizen faulted President Trump’s refusal to divest himself of his businesses or create a blind trust that would ensure his official decisions are not influenced by his personal bottom line.

Painter said Trump has broken from presidential tradition and is possibly working for his own interests rather than those of citizens. Holman also argued that because the executive branch’s internal watchdog, the Office of Government Ethics, lacks enforcement power, the president is able to set ethical guidelines which can be ignored easily.

Amid the complaints, Painter, who was the chief legal adviser to President George W. Bush, suggested that “We need a new president.”

Taking a cue from the administration of former President Barack Obama, Trump has issued an executive order aimed at slowing the “revolving door” of lobbyists from the private sector to government agencies, where they often end up regulating industries in which they formerly worked. But several speakers noted that Trump is refusing to disclose waivers granted to some ex-lobbyists, which allow them to go around the order.

Cancer survivor Ali Shapiro and Will Fischer, representing,  shared insights into how Trump’s ethical shortcomings affect individuals. Fischer said he fears Trump may put service members at risk by using the U.S. military to protect his personal overseas assets rather than reserving it for defending America or our allies. Shapiro asserted that “Trumpcare” affects her small business negatively while providing tax cuts for the wealthy.


Office: Common Cause National

Issues: Ethics

Tags: Executive Ethics

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