President Trump was elected largely on his memorable promise to “drain the swamp” in Washington. He never mentioned his plan to provide federal jobs to its inhabitants.
But that’s just what Trump is doing, a report this week on the website ProPublica suggests. The non-profit journalistic organization has identified more than 400 former lobbyists, Trump campaign staffers and supporters, ex-congressional staffers, and hangers-on from the George W. Bush administration who have been moved into key jobs scattered across the federal bureaucracy.
The new hires are part of “beachhead teams” the administration has designated to serve as Trump’s “eyes and ears” inside the government, ProPublica said. “The list is striking for how many former lobbyists it contains,” the site reported. Its researchers found “at least 36, spanning industries from health insurance and pharmaceuticals to construction, energy and finance. Many of them lobbied in the same areas that are regulated by the agencies they have now joined.”
Also included is a group of people who appear to have been hired as a reward for their work during the Trump campaign. ProPublica said it identified dozens of former Trump campaign staffers, including several who graduated from college just last year, on the beachhead teams. At least one apparently just graduated from high school in 2015.
Trump has issued ethical guidelines for his administration that allow agencies to hire ex-lobbyists but are supposed to bar those employees from working on issues or policies that were the subject of their lobbying. The Obama administration had used more stringent guidelines.
“The beachhead teams involve people with considerable authority over the federal government,” Max Stier, the CEO of the Partnership for Public Service, a nonpartisan group that advocates for a more professional federal workforce, told ProPublica. “We need clarity about what they’re doing and what their role is going to be.”
If you care about democracy (and we’re betting you do, since you’re reading Democracy Wire) you should circle next week on your calendar.
It’s “Sunshine Week,” designated annually by the American Society of Newspaper Editors and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press to marshal public support for strong Freedom of Information (FOIA) laws and transparency in government.
FOIA is grounded in the idea, most memorably voiced more than a century ago by the late Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis, that “sunshine is the best disinfectant.”
Throughout our 46-year history, Common Cause has been instrumental in passing and strengthening state and national FOIA laws. Our belief in the value of transparency also is reflected in our support for strong campaign finance disclosure requirements, which give voters important insights into who is trying to influence our elections and to whom our elected officials are beholden.
There are literally thousands of things we know about government at every level, from tainted water in Flint, Mi, to dangerously deferred maintenance on thousands of bridges across the country, to a dramatic drop in enforcing regulations on pharmaceutical distributors – in the face of an epidemic of opioid abuse in rural America – that we would not know but for FOIA.
The Sunshine in Government Institute runs a website, “Without FOIA,” that lists hundreds of important revelations obtained by journalists, academic researchers and concerned citizens through FOIA requests. And the American Society of News Editors has developed a model proclamation on Sunshine Week that activists can use to push their state and local representatives to pass or strengthen FOIA laws. Check it out, and during Sunshine Week let your representatives know you want them to support strong transparency requirements across government.
Office: Common Cause National