This week in swamp draining: Rick Perry’s former campaign manager has made $240,000 since March lobbying the Department of Energy, the agency that Perry now leads, according to lobbying disclosures filed with the Senate.
The aide, Jeff Miller, worked as a fundraiser and adviser for former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, and when he joined Perry, Miller was credited with his reinvention—the square glasses, the guy who remembers all the agencies he’ll cut.
Miller got glowing media at the time. In 2014, The Texas Tribune called Miller Perry’s “new guru.”
“Whether putting together a string of preparatory workshops with foreign policy experts, positioning Perry on national television shows or helping promote aggressive new stances on international issues, Miller has been the driving force behind the Texan’s political rehabilitation, people inside the Perry network say,” the Tribune wrote.
“He is the one that has the governor’s ear,” a former Perry spokesman told the Tribune. “Jeff has brought a focus and a leadership that was missing.”
Of course, Trump plowed through the crowded Republican field, and Perry, just like the rest of them, fell to the reality TV star.
What happened next is a classic Trump-era success story: Trump made Perry the secretary of the agency Perry forgot he wanted to eliminate. And, oh, also, Perry didn’t actually know what the Department of Energy does.
At any rate, good news for Perry is good news for Miller, and E&E News reported Miller was in the running to be Perry’s chief of staff at Energy. Miller ultimately didn’t get the job, but he seems to be doing just fine—and staying close to his former boss.
After he was passed over for Perry’s chief of staff job, Miller quickly opened his own lobbying shop. In recent months, he’s made hundreds of thousands of dollars lobbying, $240,000 of which has come from lobbying the Energy Department, according to filings.
Miller has registered to lobby the Energy Department on behalf of AECOM; Hobart Hallaway & Quayle Ventures, LLC on behalf of Lucid Motors Inc.; Nuclear Energy Institute, Inc.; Southern Company; and Valero Energy Corporation.
According to the filings, Miller is lobbying on for AECOM regarding “environmental clean-up, infrastructure and various funding issues,” and for Lucid Motors regarding “issues related to electric vehicle financing.”
Nuclear Energy Institute and Southern Company are both listed as being interested in nuclear energy issues and Valero is interested in “issues associated with the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), environmental compliance, and fuels policy.”
Miller’s success signing a number of high profile clients, many of which have interests in energy regulations (or lack thereof) is also interesting, considering the Miller Strategies website is essentially non-existent and that the only address listed in the filings for Miller Strategies is a P.O. Box in Buda, Texas.
Miller did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
During the 2016 campaign, Trump repeatedly promised he would “drain the swamp,” vowing he would impose stronger revolving door rules, which would keep former government employees from lobbying their former bosses or colleagues.
“It is time to drain the swamp in Washington, D.C. This is why I’m proposing a package of ethics reforms to make our government honest once again,” Trump said at a rally in Wisconsin last October.
But government oversight advocates say Miller is proof that the opposite is happening.
“This seems like a case of having friends in high places and pretty far afield from draining the swamp,” Scott Amey, an attorney with Project on Government Oversight said in an interview. “If he has a personal relationship with the secretary of energy that’s going to be a selling point for him.”
One thing that raises red flags, Amey said, is how quickly Miller has built a lucrative business lobbying the agency that had considered him for a senior position.
“We haven’t seen any instances of draining the swamp,” Amey said. “Unfortunately, we still see a lot of lobbyists coming into the administration and the current trend of what you’re finding with Mr. Miller… They’re cashing in on their close ties with senior officials.”
Craig Holman, a lobbyist who lobbies for anti-lobbying laws and government reform with Public Citizen, echoed Amey.
“What we’re seeing here is a common pattern in the Trump administration where people who have had close relationships with Trump or his appointees are setting up lobby shops,” Holman said. “[They’re] cashing in on their insider track with the administration, if not the president.”
Holman said there has been a spike in lobbying expenditures, despite Trump’s promise that the opposite would occur during his administration.
“Businesses and special interests who have a lot of money are using that money to buy access to the administration,” Holman said. “We haven’t seen it to this extent in quite some time… ‘Drain the swamp’ is nothing more than campaign rhetoric.”