In the final weeks of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, he pledged to “drain the swamp” in Washington, D.C. by, among other things, introducing tough new restrictions on lobbying.
“I am proposing a package of ethics reforms to make our government honest once again,” Trump said during the October 17 appearance in Green Bay, Wisconsin where he first used the “drain the swamp” line.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 3, 2016
It appears Trump is already backtracking on that pledge. Politico reports that “lobbyists are all over” Trump’s transition team. Those lobbyists include Cindy Hayden of tobacco company Altria; Michael Torrey, owner of a lobbying firm representing the American Beverage Association; Steve Hart, chairman of the Williams & Jensen firm; and Michael McKenna, who lobbies on behalf of Dow Chemical.
Trump’s reliance on insiders goes beyond lobbyists. His financial advisory team is full of veteran Wall Streeters such as former Goldman Sachs banker Steven Mnuchin, the Wall Street Journal reports. Both Mnuchin and former JPMorgan chief Jamie Dimon are reportedly in the mix to be Trump’s Treasury Secretary.
“I don’t want special interests”
Trump railed against “special interests” and lobbyists throughout his campaign. In the summer of 2015, he told Face the Nation’s John Dickerson, “I don’t want lobbyists, I don’t want special interests.”
“I don’t want any strings attached,” Trump said. “I turned down $5 million last week from a very important lobbyist, because there are total strings attached to a thing like that.”
During a major policy speech in June, Trump pledged that “if I am elected President, I will end the special interest monopoly in Washington, D.C.” And last month, spokeswoman Hope Hicks bragged to the Wall Street Journal about how registered lobbyists weren’t raising money for Trump.
“We have specifically not recruited lobbyists to raise money, as Mr. Trump has always said he would not be beholden to special interests that control Washington, D.C., and our failed politicians,” said Hicks. “This is a movement about the people, and it will continue to be if he is elected president.”
Trump’s affiliation with lobbyists, Wall Street insiders, and well-connected D.C. veterans draws into question whether Trump will follow through on Hicks’ pledge. But in a New York Times report, former Sen. Trent Lott (R-MS) — now owner of a lobbying firm whose clients have included the Kremlin — offers an interpretation of how Trump’s “drain the swamp” campaign message is consistent with what he’s up to now.
“Trump has pledged to change things in Washington — about draining the swamp,” said Lott, who has been working for Trump in Florida. “He is going to need some people to help guide him through the swamp — how do you get in and how you get out? We are prepared to help do that.”