Trump-Connected Lobbyists Help Secure $10 Billion in Coronavirus Aid
The Public Citizen, a consumer advocacy group, released a report that 40 lobbyists connected to President Donald Trump have lobbied thus far on coronavirus related issues with 27 clients of Trump-affiliated lobbyists receiving more than $10.5 billion of federal coronavirus aid.
The money consists of $6.3 billion in grants, $4.2 billion in loans, and $67 million in corporate bond purchases by the Federal Reserve. The Public Citizen says these numbers are likely to be “a gross undercount due to the lagging disclosure by the Trump administration.”
The connections between the lobbyists and Trump are easy to spot.
“The Trump-connected lobbyists include at least 20 people who worked in the administration or provided special services for the administration; 11 alumni of the Trump presidential transition team; eight members of Trump’s campaigns; six people who raise money for Trump; and three vice-chairs of Trump’s scandal-ridden inaugural committee,” said the Public Citizen.
The same Trump-connected lobbyists have also donated at least $1 million out of their pockets to the Trump campaign.
The corruption is evident as the campaign promise that Trump would drain the swamp was nothing more than a facade.
Trump vowed to fix the issue of corporate interests lobbying in Washington, but instead, he has done the opposite. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, federal lobbying expenditures roughly equaled an all-time high in the first quarter of 2020.
“The swamp is alive and well in Washington, D.C.,” said Public Citizen’s Mike Tanglis via the Associated Press. “These (lobbying) booms that these people are having, you can really attribute them to their connection to Trump.”
But let’s not end with skepticism for the future ahead. In the Public Citizen’s report, it offers up an idea of what short-term and long-term reform could look like to fix the lobbying issue moving forward.
“In the short term, the government, of course, should do everything it possibly can to offer the public an unobstructed window into the details of where the trillions of public dollars are going. This includes putting additional transparency and conflict of interest measures like those found in the Coronavirus Oversight and Recovery Ethics (CORE) Act in place for future tranches of money going out the door. Likewise, the administration should embrace and cooperate with oversight panels established by Congress. Any government intent on deterring corruption would do that without a second thought. The Trump administration’s resistance to these steps speaks volumes.
“In the long term, future administrations and the Congress should embrace systemic reforms to sever the conflicts of interest that incentivize government officials to favor the wealthy and well-connected over the constituents whom they are hired to serve.
“A major overhaul to lobbying disclosure laws is long past due. Those who lobby the government should be required to disclose – as foreign agents are today – whom they meet with and what they ask for. If there’s nothing to hide, then there’s little to be afraid of other than the inconvenience of paperwork, which is a small price to pay.
“Relatedly, the government should enlist the nation’s ample reserve of information technology wizards to adapt ways to present lobbying disclosure information in a manner that allows ordinary Americans to easily obtain and digest it. The efficacy of sunlight as a disinfectant is not absolute. But our leaders should harness that power to its maximum potential, and nothing short of that is acceptable.
“Further, restrictions on public officials cashing in on their public service by peddling their insider connections as lobbyists should be tightened and codified into law. This report, with its discussion of the ineffectiveness of Trump’s executive order, shows the folly of relying on the whims of whoever is in power to police the pernicious revolving door between government and special interests. The opportunity to work for the government should go to those who regard it as an honor and a privilege, and not those intent on using it as a springboard to a seven-figure paycheck. Laws that would meaningfully slow the revolving door would help separate opportunists from public servants.
“Finally, the next president and the Congress should prioritize adopting a system that would permit political candidates who show viability to fund their campaigns with public money in exchange for forswearing large private contributions. It is not for nothing that so many lobbyists and others with business before the government routinely contribute hundreds of thousands of dollars – or more – out of their own pockets in political contributions.”
About Ryan Lipton
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