Trump’s Swamp Continues To Grow

The Trump administration continues to cater to special interests, invite lobbyists into the White House and blur ethical lines with luxury air travel. Trump has repeatedly said he would “drain the swamp,” but instead of following through on his promise, Trump has only made things swampier.

As the Treasury Department works on Trump’s tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy, Steven Mnuchin’s top aide flew on a private jet with a hedge fund billionaire who praised Trump’s plan to slash taxes for the wealthy.

Washington Post: “Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin’s top aide flew on a hedge fund billionaire’s private jet to Palm Beach, Fla., several months ago, people familiar with the trip said, the latest example of senior Trump administration officials using luxury air travel even though it often raises red flags with ethics officials. Eli Miller, Mnuchin’s chief of staff, flew with Nelson Peltz, a founding partner of New York-based Trian Fund Management, on the trip. Peltz is an activist shareholder who has sought a board seat at Procter & Gamble, seeking to shake up management. He has spoken glowingly about Trump's proposal to slash tax rates on businesses and the wealthy, which is something designed in large part by senior Treasury officials.”

Alexander Acosta, Rick Perry and Wilbur Ross attended a meeting of a major mining lobbying group at Trump’s D.C. hotel, with Wilbur Ross headlining one of the sessions.

Washington Post: “Three members of President Trump’s Cabinet attended the meeting of a major mining lobbying group at a Washington hotel owned by the president himself, according to a schedule of the event obtained by The Washington Post. The National Mining Association drew the high-ranking officials to the fall board of directors meeting it held at Trump International Hotel, just blocks from the White House, on Tuesday and Wednesday.”

Scott Pruitt made a habit of meeting regularly with corporate executives from the auto, mining and fossil fuel industries before making decisions favorable to those groups.

Washington Post: “Scott Pruitt has met regularly with corporate executives from the automobile, mining and fossil fuel industries – in several instances shortly before making decision favorable to those interest groups.”

Interior Secretary Zinke traveled across the country to meet with political donors or groups, in one case even using a plane owned by executives of an oil-and-gas firm.

Washington Post: “In June, Zinke and his staffers took a four-hour flight from Las Vegas to Kalispell, Mont., aboard a private plane owned by the executives of a Wyoming oil-and-gas exploration firm, aviation and business records show. The landing in Kalispell put Zinke a short drive from his home in Whitefish, Mont., where he spent the night, documents show.”           

Politico: “Ryan Zinke has met with donors or political groups more than a half-dozen times while on department-paid trips, including a March visit to the U.S. Virgin Islands.”

Betsy DeVos attended the Mackinac GOP Leadership Conference, the Michigan gathering of elected officials and special interests she practically bankrolled.

Detroit News: “The Mackinac GOP conference, which begins Friday and runs through a Sunday brunch, remains a popular spot for declared and prospective candidates to mingle with potential supporters and test their messages heading into an election year. With Republican President Donald Trump in the White House, the 32nd biennial confab will lack some of the star power of recent years that featured presidential aspirants working the porch at the historic Grand Hotel. U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, a Michigan native and school choice advocate, will headline the 2017 conference.”

Detroit Free Press: “There’s something really through-the-looking-glass about DeVos addressing a room full of legislators whose campaigns she has funded, lobbyists whose work she has paid for, and activists whose movements she launched. This is, in a very real way, a room DeVos built, in a state her family has shaped, in a country whose educational policy she now plays a key role in administering.”

Trump tapped another lobbyist to join his administration’s ranks, naming a representative of the coal industry to serve as deputy administrator to the EPA.

New York Times: “President Trump on Thursday nominated Andrew R. Wheeler, a coal lobbyist with links to outspoken deniers of established science on climate change, to help lead the Environmental Protection Agency. In announcing Mr. Wheeler, a former aide to Senator James M. Inhofe, to be deputy administrator of the agency, the White House tapped an experienced legislative hand reviled by environmental activists but hailed by industry as having the know-how to dismantle Obama-era fossil fuel regulations. […] Since 2009, Mr. Wheeler has been a leader in the energy practice of the law firm Faegre Baker Daniels. His clients at the firm have included Murray Energy, one of the nation’s largest coal mining companies.”