Former campaign aides, fundraisers and others with ties to President Trump and Vice President Pence have attracted dozens of new lobbying clients in Washington, raking in more than $2.2 million in lobbying fees in the first months of the administration, a USA TODAY analysis shows.
Brian Ballard, a longtime Florida lobbyist and a fundraiser for both Trump’s campaign and inaugural committee, appears to lead the pack, signing up 20 federal clients since opening his Washington lobbying operation this year. His company, Ballard Partners, has earned more than $1.1 million in a three-month period, new lobbying reports show.
Ballard is one of more than a dozen White House allies launching new firms, taking new jobs in lobbying firms or signing up new clients this year as companies and other interests look for ways to shape policy in the Trump administration. During the campaign, Trump repeatedly promised to drain the special-interest swamp in Washington.AP reports:
Contribution records from Trump's inaugural committee, released Wednesday by the Federal Election Commission, show the president who railed as a candidate against the corrupting influence of big-money donors was only too willing to accept top-dollar checks for his swearing-in festivities.
Trump's total take was about double the previous record set by Barack Obama, who collected $53 million in contributions in 2009, and had money left over to spend on the annual Easter egg roll and other White House events.
Trump's top inaugural donor was Las Vegas gambling billionaire Sheldon Adelson, who gave $5 million. He and his wife came away with prime seats for Trump's swearing-in ceremony on Jan. 20 and gained access to a private lunch with the new president and lawmakers at the Capitol. Phil Ruffin, another casino mogul and close friend of Trump, was among dozens of donors who gave $1 million each.
At least eight NFL team owners kicked in big money for the inauguration. Seven of them, including Patriots owner Bob Kraft, whose team won the Super Bowl and visited the White House on Wednesday, gave $1 million apiece. Kraft's donation came via his limited liability company.Mary Papenfuss reports at the Huffington Post:
The New York Times and ProPublica have highlighted some especially worrisome hires in the executive branch, including White House energy adviser Michael Catanzaro, a former oil and gas company lobbyist, and Geoff Burr, a former construction industry lobbyist now working at the Department of Labor.
A lobbyist may “de-register on Monday and enter the Trump Administration on Tuesday,” Craig Holman of the watchdog group Public Citizen told ProPublica — and could also quickly return to the private sector.
Just last week, Bloomberg revealed that Marcus Peacock, a top Trump aide who worked briefly in the Office of Management and Budget, will join the lobbying group the Business Roundtable. Peacock has recused himself from lobbying the OMB for just six months — even though he agreed not to lobby his former agency for five years, according to Bloomberg.
Trump may also be issuing other ethics waivers, but that’s difficult to determine because granted waivers are generally kept secret, the Times reports. The president is also keeping White House visitor logs secret, making it difficult to track corporate representatives’ meetings with federal officials as they create new policy.