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President-Elect Donald Trump banned lobbyists from serving in his administration, and enacted a five-year ban on anyone who leaves his administration from subsequently serving as a lobbyist. But the positive attributes of Trump’s Administration stop there as his appointed nominees and his own conflict of interests contradict the claims throughout his campaign that he would “make America great again” for working and middle class Americans.
Trump recently appointed Betsy DeVos to serve as his Secretary of Education. There are few policy differences on education between billionaire GOP Super Pac donor DeVos and establishment Democrats (Clinton Campaign Chair John Podesta’s Center for American Progress supports charter schools, merit pay, and common core). But Devos’ previous associations in conservative elite circles are alarming. She served on the board of the Action Institute, which has supported abolishing child labor laws, and has advocated to overturn the separation of church and state. DeVos’ husband, Richard Devos, co-founded the multilevel marketing pyramid scheme Amway. A School Reform Pac once directed by Betsy DeVos currently owes the state of Ohio $5.3 million in fines for violating campaign finance regulations. It is hypocritical to promise to purge big money out of politics and then provide an administration position to someone who perpetuates big money corruption.
Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL), Trump’s pick for Attorney General, has an estimated net worth at over $7 million. Sessions has incited backlash from Democrats for his record of racism and xenophobia. In 1986, Sessions was rejected for a position as a federal judge over concerning racist remarks he made.
Mitt Romney, a potential Secretary of State choice, has a net worth estimated at $250 million. His failed 2012 Presidential bid was notoriously open to corporate lobbyists. “Mitt Romney,who totally blew an election that should have been won and whose tax returns made him look like a fool, is now playing tough guy” Trump tweeted in February 2016. “When Mitt Romney asked me for my endorsement last time around, he was so awkward and goofy that we all should have known he could not win !”
Nikki Haley, Trump’s pick for U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, has a net worth of $1.6 million. In 2012, Haley was investigated while serving as South Carolina’s Governor for illegal lobbying practices.
Trump’s choice for Deputy National Security Adviser, K.T. McFarland, has a multi-million dollar net worth. McFarland was implicated to have been tapped by Fox News’ Roger Ailes to “hand over her editorial functions” at Fox News to propagate David Petraeus’ potential 2012 presidential campaign.
On November 24, the New York Times cited billionaire investor and prolific Trump donor Wilbur Ross as Trump’s likely nominee for Commerce Secretary. Ross was dubbed the “King of Bankruptcy” for how he profited off his investment practices. The Times’ cited Trump’s likely choice for Deputy Commerce Secretary would be Todd Ricketts, another prolific Republican donor from a billionaire family.
As reported by The Intercept’s Lee Fang, Trump’s transition team was stacked with corporate lobbyists. Though at least three lobbyists were removed after the imposition of an ethics rule, those who were not listed as removed include ; “adviser Eric Ueland, a Senate Republican staffer who previously lobbied for Goldman Sachs ; and Transition General Counsel William Palatucci, an attorney in New Jersey whose lobbying firm represents Aetna and Verizon. Rick Holt, Christine Ciccone, Rich Bagger, and Mike Ferguson are among the other corporate lobbyists helping to manage the transition effort”, wrote Fang.
The Intercept’s David Dayen reported Google surrogate Joshua Wright was placed in charge of Trump’s transition efforts at the Federal Trade Commission.
The Center for Biological Diversity reported Donald Trump appointed Doug Domenech, the director of the Big Oil think tank, Fueling Freedom Project, as a team leader for transition of the Department of Interior.
Already entering the White House as the wealthiest President-Elect in history, Trump has yet to sever the numerous conflicts of interest his business fortune poses with his upcoming presidency. Critics from both sides of the political aisle have demanded Trump divest his business holdings to avoid conflicts of interest.
“The hope is that safeguards are being put in place, that the Trump Organization leadership is on guard for precisely this type of scenario”, Clinton Cash Author Peter Schweizer said during an interview on CNN with Michael Smerconish. Schweizer is also a former colleague of Trump’s controversial Chief of Staff, Steve Bannon (whose net worth is estimated to be around $10 million). “Because I think, based on history, it’s only a question of time when these kind of offers are made. And if they take these offers, it’s hugely problematic”. If Trump isn’t willing to take the necessary measures to prevent corruption, or even its appearance, at the top of his administration, its likely that conflicts of interest and rampant scandals will trickle down to the lower cabinets of his administration during his presidency.
Rather than “drain the swamp” Presidents before him created in using the spoils system to appoint their big donors and other wealthy influences into top administration positions, as Obama, Bush, and others have done, Donald Trump’s cabinet picks appear to be more of the same corruption. Now that Trump is in the White House, the nominees for his administration reflect insincerity in attempting to meaningfully purge the wealthy and corporate influences that have rendered Washington DC dysfunctional.
Michael J. SAINATO