The revolving door between the corridors of government power and the riches of the corporate business world is getting stuck and leaving former members of the Trump administration trapped inside.
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In a new article today, The Washington Post detailed the reluctance of corporate America to eagerly embrace these now apparently tainted individuals back into the warm embrace of cushy positions in the business world— a place where previous former high-level government officials would retreat to lick their wounds after their party lost control of the White House.
In the past, such people would be highly sought after for board positions or consultancies by companies who felt that these former officials’ relationships with federal agencies and with Congress could assist them in their lobbying efforts and provide insider insight to help illuminate their future strategic directions.
Now, The Washington Post — using the example of former Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao to illustrate its conclusion — says that “the toxicity of the former president’s brand is choking off traditional money-making opportunities for members of his inner circle.”
Before joining the Trump administration, Chao — who in addition to having served as the head of the federal agency overseeing our nation’s transportation infrastructure has the added caché of being married to the most powerful Republican senator in Congress, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) — already had a long history of raking in the dough by serving on the board of directors of major companies including Dole Foods, Protective Life and Wells Fargo.
Now, The Post is reporting that:
“Headhunters who have sought similarly prominent work for Chao have found little interest, according to two headhunters she’s consulted personally. The headhunters, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the discussions, said top executives wary of backlash from associating with former Trump officials are boiling down Chao’s four-decade Washington résumé to its most recent entry: long-standing ally of Donald Trump, despite her resignation the day after the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.”
“One of the headhunters said his team surveyed some companies about their interest in Chao and didn’t find any takers. “The feedback was, ‘It’s too soon,’ ” this person said,” the article continues.
According to a person close to the former Transportation Secretary — who is also tainted by a congressional investigation into whether she used her office to benefit her own family’s shipping business interests — the situation isn’t as dire as the anonymous headhunters are painting.
“She’s evaluating a number of invitations to join various corporate boards while helping former colleagues land as well,” this person said. “She’s interested in new economy companies, has already accepted board positions and is currently in various stages of finalizing agreements with them and others.”
While that may seem like a face-saving statement in the absence of any formal comment from Chao about her future endeavors, it is not only the spouse of the top GOP senator who has been affected by the toxicity of association with the reviled and seditious former president.
According to The Washington Post, after an equivalent period after the end of the last Republican administration in 2009, “four major companies had lined up alums of George W. Bush’s Cabinet to serve as directors: global power company AES, oil and gas company Hess, chemical maker FMC, and United Technologies, the industrial conglomerate that has since merged with Raytheon.”
Now, not a single Trump cabinet official in office during his final months in office has been nominated for any of the approximately 108 open positions currently available at S&P 500 companies.
“Boards don’t need trouble or criticism,” one headhunter said. “If you want to stay away from all that potential tarnish, that’s easy: You just don’t go near it.”
The Post also cited former Attorney General William Barr and ex-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo as people closely associated with Donald Trump who are seen as being shunned by formerly friendly corporate giants.
While it is satisfying to see that the business world is holding former Trump administration officials accountable for their misdeeds — if only by association — true justice cannot be served until these people and their conduct while in office are thoroughly investigated by the Justice Department and prosecuted for any crimes that they are found to have committed.
Let’s hope that the Biden administration doesn’t shy away from taking action against former Trump officials in the name of unity with a divisive faction of Republicans who would never return the favor if the shoe was on the other foot.
Original reporting by Tory Newmyer at The Washington Post.
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