Reince Priebus, former White House chief of staff for President Donald Trump, has offered advice to T-Mobile ahead of the company’s proposed merger with Sprint, according to a report by Politico Tuesday. The merger would require approval from the Justice Department.
Two people familiar with the conversations told the outlet they could not say whether a formal arrangement exists between T-Mobile and the former chief of staff, who was fired last July.
Priebus, who rejoined his former law firm, Michael Best & Friedrich, in October, previously told Politico he would not be “selling access” to his old administration or granting new clients any special back-channels as a private citizen.
“I’m not selling access,” he said in November. “I’m merely providing strategic advice and helping them handle their problems.”
Priebus joins a long list of former Trump administration officials and staffers who have found lucrative work providing “strategic advice” to clients looking to make good with the administration. While President Trump promised to “drain the swamp” by prohibiting former administration officials from “lobbying activities,” many have found creative work-arounds.
Former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, for example, has already advised T-Mobile on its planned merger. Politico noted the company has retained Turnberry Solutions, a lobbying company founded by two of Lewandowski’s former colleagues that is operated out of Lewandowski’s residence. T-Mobile claims Lewandowski’s work does not qualify as lobbying, but according to documents uncovered by the Wall Street Journal, Lewandowski “receives a cut of the fees paid to the lobbying firm on the T-Mobile contract.”
Chinese telecommunications company ZTE also hired Bryan Lanza, a former member of the Trump campaign and administration, to work as a lobbyist amid negotiations with the president to loosen restrictions on the company’s business relationships with the United States. According to The Daily Beast, ZTE signed its contract with Lanza’s D.C. lobbying and public relations firm “a day after Trump tweeted that he would consider lifting the penalties that had been imposed on the company as punishment for its violation of sanctions against Iran and North Korea.”
ZTE, the large Chinese phone company, buys a big percentage of individual parts from U.S. companies. This is also reflective of the larger trade deal we are negotiating with China and my personal relationship with President Xi.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 14, 2018
Former White House environmental policy adviser George David Banks rejoined his old lobbying firm American Council for Capital Formation earlier this year, after resigning his former post as White House environmental policy adviser in February. As of last month, Banks had not yet re-registered as a lobbyist. Representatives for Banks told ProPublica that he did not meet the legal threshold to register as a lobbyist because he spent “little to no time on the Hill.”
Several other former government officials have exploited loopholes in the 1995 Lobbying Disclosure Act in order to make the most of their time in White House, whether by working for a strategic consulting firm, a communications firm, or spending “less than 20 percent” of their time on lobbying.