President Trump famously campaigned on a platform that prominently claimed that he would “drain the swamp” in Washington DC when elected. He even appeared to use an executive order signed during his first week in office to signal that he was following up on that promise.
Executive Order No. 13770 was designed to prevent any former lobbyists from being appointed to governmental positions overseeing issues they’d lobbied on within the last two years unless they received a formal waiver to do so.
Now, however, the noted government watchdog organization Public Citizen is alleging 30 incidents where the Trump administration violated its own directives in hiring ex-lobbyists to work in areas where they formerly pushed a paid agenda without obtaining the required waivers.
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Public Citizen has filed ethics complaints about each of the violations with the federal agencies involved, including the White House. The organization initially discovered 36 violations of the executive order last summer, but six people have obtained the required waivers since then.
“These 30 apparent violations of Trump’s own ethics rules are only the tip of the iceberg,” said Craig Holman, co-author of the June 2017 report and lobbyist for Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division, according to NBC News.
Holman says that the six waivers were only granted to former lobbyists whose appointments received sufficient media attention and cited several of the most egregious violations.
Byron Anderson, a special assistant to the secretary of labor, Public Citizen says “appears to be working on the same specific issue areas he had lobbied on within the last two years and has not received a waiver from the ethics rules.” Anderson worked at Transamerica as a vice president of federal affairs until last January.
Andrew Wheeler, a lobbyist for the coal industry until May 2017, was appointed as the deputy administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency without a waiver as well.
The other federal agencies named by Public Citizen are the Departments of Defense, Homeland Security, Housing and Urban Development, Transportation, Health and Human Services, Commerce, Interior, Energy, Education, Agriculture, as well as the White House Office of Management and Budget.
“The bottom line is that neither Trump nor his administration take conflicts of interest and ethics seriously,” said Lisa Gilbert, vice president of legislative affairs for Public Citizen. “‘Drain the swamp’ was far more campaign rhetoric than a commitment to ethics, and the widespread lack of compliance and enforcement of Trump’s ethics executive order shows that ethics do not matter in the Trump administration.”
In addition to the Trump administration’s failure to follow its own ethics guidelines in hiring former lobbyists, the scandal over outrageous travel and office remodeling expenses by cabinet members including Scott Pruitt, Steve Mnuchin, Ben Carson, and Ryan Zinke demonstrates that the swamp not only hasn’t been drained, it’s only grown larger and deeper than ever under the least ethical president the nation has ever known.