While on the campaign trail, President Donald Trump had quite the negative view of the lobbying industry. As early as in his announcement of his presidential bid, President Trump targeted the industry saying, “They [Politicians] will never make America great again. They don’t even have a chance. They’re controlled fully — they’re controlled fully by the lobbyists, by the donors, and by the special interests, fully. Yes, they control them.” After winning the election, President Trump had his transition team sign a code of ethical conduct, which included terms such as “During my service with the PETT, I will not, on behalf of any person or entity, engage in regulated lobbying activities, as defined by the Lobbying Disclosure Act, with or before any federal department or agency with respect to a particular matter for which I have direct and substantial responsibility as part of the PETT.” Then, once in office, President Trump issued an Executive Order, which included terms like “I will not for a period of 2 years from the date of my appointment participate in any particular matter involving specific parties that is directly and substantially related to my former employer or former clients, including regulations and contracts.” Nevertheless, his administration has come into conflict with it’s own Office of Government Ethics (OGE) over the issue of lobbying.
Per the New York Times, “The Trump administration, in a significant escalation of its clash with the government’s top ethics watchdog, has moved to block an effort to disclose the names of former lobbyists who have been granted waivers to work in the White House or federal agencies.” In response to the OGE’s request from every federal agency to provide copies of the waivers it had granted lobbyists, Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney sent a letter to OGE Director Shaub questioning the legal authority of the request.
Director Shaub, who was appointed by President Barrack Obama, responded to Director Mulvaney in a “scalding, 10-page response to the White House late Monday, unlike just about any correspondence in the history of the office, created after the Nixon Watergate scandal,” reports the New York Times. In the letter, Director Shaub writes, “OGE declines your request to suspend its ethics inquiry and reiterates its expectation that agencies will fully comply with its directive by June 1, 2017.”
The New York Times reports that, “Ethics watchdogs, as well as Democrats in Congress, have expressed concern at the number of former lobbyists taking high-ranking political jobs in the Trump administration. In many cases, they appear to be working on the exact topics they had previously handled on behalf of private-sector clients — including oil and gas companies and Wall Street banks — as recently as January.”
LobbyBlog will continue to monitor the latest developments of this story.