Donald Trump suggested during the campaign that he would ban lobbyists from his administration. Now they’re working at the very agencies they sought to influence.
By Justin Elliott
During his campaign, Donald Trump repeatedly welcomed the idea of banning lobbyists from his administration.
Fast forward eight months, and now-President Trump is welcoming them in.
Last June on CBS’s “Face the Nation,” host John Dickerson asked Donald Trump: Given the candidate’s drumbeat of criticism of the Washington lobbyist class, “Will you say ‘No lobbyists will work for me and no big donors?'”
“I would have no problem with it, honestly,” Trump responded.
After the exchange, a “Face the Nation” producer followed up with campaign spokeswoman Hope Hicks, who confirmed that, yes, Trump was referring to banning lobbyists from his administration.
The sentiment is in line with what Trump told NBC’s “Meet the Press” in another interview a year earlier, when he called banning lobbyists from working in his administration “a pretty good idea.”
As ProPublica detailed last week, a longtime construction industry lobbyist who previously worked against wage and workplace safety regulations is now in a key position at the Department of Labor. The lobbyist, Geoff Burr, is reportedly in line to be chief of staff if Andrew Puzder is confirmed as Labor secretary.
At the Food and Drug Administration, longtime pharmaceutical lobbyist Jack Kalavritinos has a senior role in the agency’s early Trump team, according to Stat News.
Kalavritinos spent more than seven years as the chief lobbyist of the medical device and pharmaceutical firm Covidien. (Covidien was subsequently acquired by Medtronic.) In that role, Kalavritinos lobbied the FDA and Congress on a host of issues related to medical device regulation, disclosure records show. Among the legislation he lobbied on was the Novel Device Regulatory Relief Act and the Food and Drug Administration Mission Reform Act.
Trump himself recently criticized the extensive influence of the pharmaceutical lobby. “Pharma has a lot of lobbies and a lot of lobbyists and a lot of power and there’s very little bidding on drugs,” he said at a press conference last month.
K Street was a frequent punching bag for Trump on the campaign trail. He once tweeted:
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 22, 2015
It’s difficult to know how many former lobbyists are now working in the Trump administration. Both Burr and Kalavritinos are members of Trump’s so-called “beachhead teams,” which are made up of officials installed at federal agencies to lay the groundwork while the president’s nominees make their way through the Senate confirmation process. The administration has said there are around 500 such staffers, but has not released a list of names.
Trump last month issued an executive order on ethics for appointees that weakened elements of the Obama-era policy on former lobbyists joining government.
Trump also hired a range of lobbyists into influential positions during the transition period, between Election Day and the inauguration on Jan. 20. As The New York Times noted in November, telecom, energy, and agriculture industry consultants and lobbyists were all named to influential roles.
The White House did not respond to a request for comment.
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