Lobbyists finding spots in Trump administration

Lobbyists finding spots in Trump administration
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Drew Maloney, who led the Washington office for an oil and gas giant, has been chosen as the Treasury Department’s liaison to Congress, becoming the latest K Streeter to go into the Trump administration.

The White House on Tuesday evening announced that President Trump would be nominating Maloney to serve as the assistant secretary of Treasury for legislative affairs. While he awaits Senate confirmation, he will be serving as Treasury’s deputy under secretary for legislative affairs.

Maloney, a former adviser to Mitt Romney during his presidential campaigns, has spent the last four years at the Hess Corporation, working as a vice president of government and external affairs. He previously served as the chief executive of Ogilvy Government Relations, one of K Street’s top lobbying shops. 

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While Maloney hasn't been a registered lobbyist in years, another nomination from K Street is hitting against the grain of Trump’s promise on the campaign trail to “drain the swamp” in Washington and end “business as usual.”

Right before the election, Trump came out with an advertisement vowing to replace “a failed and corrupt political establishment with a new government controlled by you, the American people.”

But like administrations before him, Trump has turned to lobbyists to staff his transition and fill administration posts.

Asked about his hires during the transition effort, Trump suggested it was hard to find people in Washington who weren’t lobbyists.

"That's the only people you have down there," Trump said during an interview on CBS’ “60 Minutes” in November. “Everybody's a lobbyist down there.”

“We're going to phase that out,” he added. “You have to phase it out.”

All administration employees are mandated to sign an ethics pledge that requires them to not work on issues they handled while in the private sector for two years without first obtaining a waiver. This applies to both former registered lobbyists and others from the private sector who have not lobbied. Maloney, for example, has not been a registered lobbyist since 2012 when he helmed Ogilvy, but must still stay away from policy issues that could directly impact Hess Corporation.

Within the White House itself, three prominent lobbyists have been added to the senior leadership team of the National Economic Council (NEC).

Mike Catanzaro, a former energy lobbyist with CGCN Group, was named the special assistant to the president for domestic energy and environmental policy. Catanzaro had worked for the Senate Environment Committee on Capitol Hill and, until his post at the White House, lobbied on behalf of the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers, the American Chemistry Council, Devon Energy and Noble Energy.

Shahira Knight is serving as the special assistant to the president for tax and retirement policy. Before that, she had been a lobbyist at Fidelity Investments, serving as the vice president in the public affairs and policy group. On Capitol Hill, she had worked on the House Ways & Means Committee and the Joint Economic Committee. 

George David Banks joined the administration as special assistant to the president for international energy and environment. He comes from the American Council for Capitol Formation, an industry group that lobbies on economic and environmental policy, and he has worked in the George W. Bush White House. (In an interview with ProPublica, Banks said that his registration as a lobbyist was in error, and he did not do work qualifying him as a lobbyist.)

However, most lobbyists joining the administration have gone in with “beachhead” teams throughout various agencies, which are groups of temporary employees, put in place while permanent officials are installed. Some beachhead staffers end up joining the agencies they helped to get moving.

Geoff Burr, for example, is one of the first waves of employees at the Labor Department. He formerly lobbied for the Associated Builders and Contractors, and is in line to become the department’s chief of staff once a secretary is confirmed, Bloomberg BNA first reported last month.

While Burr also spent time in the Labor Department during the George W. Bush administration, he had dealt with labor policies at the agency in his 13 years at the construction industry group.

It is unclear whether the beachhead staffers, because they are temporary, must sign or abide by Trump’s ethics pledge. 

Another new Labor Department staffer, Byron Anderson, had been part of the in-house lobbying team for Transamerica since 2006, according to ProPublica. He’s now serving as serving as a special assistant to the secretary at an agency that is grappling with an Obama-era rule that would create conflict-of-interest standards for investment advisers.

ProPublica obtained a list of more than 400 names of beachhead staffers across the government, several of which had been lobbyists before taking on roles in the Trump administration.

The hires have occurred across the government, including healthcare lobbyists who have gone to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), run by former Republican congressman Tom Price, and a lobbyist for the Defense tech firm Palantir holding a senior role at the Department of Defense.

At the Department of Education, a former for-profit college lobbyist has been hired as a beachhead team member, according to a separate ProPublica report

The White House did not answer an inquiry asking about how beachhead staff is required to follow the administration’s ethics policy. However, other media reports cite administration lawyers saying that the staffers must participate in an ethics briefing.

 

— This post was updated at 10:09 a.m.