Federal Politics

Published — February 17, 2017 Updated — Today at 5:02 pm EST

Lobbyists helped bankroll Donald Trump’s transition

Hired guns for defense contractors, private prisons and Big Tobacco among donors

Introduction

Even as Donald Trump was kicking lobbyists off his presidential transition team, he was quietly cashing checks from them.

At least a dozen registered lobbyists donated money to Trump for America, as the transition team was officially known, according to a Center for Public Integrity review of federal filings. Their ranks include hired guns who represent defense contractors, drugmakers, private prisons, telecommunications giants and tobacco companies, among other interests.

The actual number of lobbyists who donated to Trump’s transition is likely higher, as the transition team is not required to file its mandatory financial report until Sunday. But some lobbyists disclosed these contributions in separate documents filed with Congress.

In mid-November, Vice President Mike Pence earned headlines for ordering all lobbyists to leave the transition team.

At the time, Jason Miller, a spokesman for the transition, explained the decision: “[W]e’re not going to have any lobbyists involved with the transition efforts … When we talk about draining the swamp, this is one of the first steps.”

One of those booted from the transition was J. Steven Hart, the chairman of lobbying firm Williams & Jensen, who had been overseeing the Labor Department transition.

Hart — whose clients include Coca-Cola, Comcast, Pfizer, United Airlines and Visa — donated $5,000 to Trump for America in November, according to a filing with Congress known as an LD-203 report.

In an email to the Center for Public Integrity, Hart said that Trump’s “drain the swamp” mantra had “interesting” applications for lobbyists, government officials and the media alike.

“When you do your job, are you doing it for money and personal advancement or considering the greater good? There are swamp creatures in every walk of life,” Hart wrote.

Donations to the transition team are, by law, capped at $5,000.

According to recent filings with Congress, other lobbyists who donated to the Trump transition last year include:

With the exception of Hart, none of the lobbyists contacted by the Center for Public Integrity responded to requests for comment. Nor did a spokesperson for the White House, which, under one of Trump’s executive orders, has imposed a five-year ban on administration officials later going on to work as lobbyists themselves.

Why would lobbyists donate to Trump’s transition team, which served as the official “government-in-waiting” that worked to craft the new administration’s policies and identify potential presidential appointees?

“Money buys access and influence,” said Craig Holman, a lobbyist for the public interest group Public Citizen, adding that he’s disappointed by the actions of a candidate who pledged to “drain the swamp” in Washington, D.C.

“Trump isn’t carrying through with his campaign pledge to build a wall between his administration and the lobbying profession,” said Holman.

Federal filings further show that scores of companies and trade associations that routinely lobby the federal government — including payday lender Advance America, commercial bank JPMorgan Chase and the American Resort Development Association —supported Trump’s transition team through their political action committees.

John T. Mechem, a spokesman for the Mortgage Bankers Association, said the $5,000 contribution the group gave in December through its PAC was “a means for us to help the Trump transition as they sought to identify the most qualified individuals for a variety of appointed positions in the new administration that will impact the business of financing residential, commercial and multifamily real estate.”

Jeff Leieritz, a spokesman for Associated Builders and Contractors, which also donated $5,000 through its PAC, said his organization was hopeful the Trump administration would “create a regulatory environment that will encourage greater business investment in the economy” and work to “rebuild our nation’s crumbling infrastructure.”

Many corporate interests also gave six- and seven-figure sums to Trump’s official inaugural committee, as the Center for Public Integrity previously reported.

Also among the financial backers of Trump’s transition: a number of high-profile Republicans.

According to a Center for Public Integrity review of filings with the Federal Election Commission, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch of Utah and House Transportation Committee Chairman Bill Shuster of Pennsylvania used their own leadership PACs to donate to Trump’s transition.

Overall, the Trump transition team raised about $5.4 million from private sources, including individuals, businesses and other entities. It also collected about $6 million in taxpayer money.

This story was co-published with Public Radio International, TIME and the Buffalo News.

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SOUTH JERSEYTed SiroisMark SullivanTom LarkinAnonymous Recent comment authors
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Mark Sullivan
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Mark Sullivan

Trump needs to conduct these activities because the entire MSM media, excluding Fox, is campaigning against him 24/7/365.

Didn’t Monica’s boyfriend’s wife and various criminal enterprises outspend Trump by almost 2-1?

CapitalistRoader
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CapitalistRoader

Why wouldn’t he get an early start on fund raising? Hillary outspent him two-to-one in 2016. The Dem’s are the party of big money. The President knows this and is attempting to get a jump on it. Of course the Dem candidate will outspend him in 2020 so it’s only rational that he starts fund raising now.

George Young
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George Young

Oh brother. We just 8 years of the Campaigner – in – Chief. Where was this journalistic rectal thermometer then. Just another article about 2000 words too long that merely takes another slap at Trump for something he far from initiated.

j stevenson
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j stevenson

The big difference between Trump and all the rest is his refusing to accept funds from lobbyists, so they don’t have the White House access they are used to. These are the donors who buy the presidency and are as pixxed off that he won the election as are the media and the Dems. Lobbyists have never been shut out of the WH and Trump has told them he is not for sale.

jan v
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jan v

all the lobbyists are running all our government agencies and all the career civil servants who know how to run the country have been fired. YOU think this is a good thing ? what a crock…

thomas alessi
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thomas alessi

I am for Trump

Anonymous
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Anonymous

Trump needs to be impeached and tossed in prison. Then have the key thrown away so he will never be free. Then he can see how it feels not to have freedom.

Mark Sullivan
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Mark Sullivan

Thank you for the usual insightful leftist low IQ Snowflake response.

barney
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hes not imprisoning them hes sending them back to their country chill tf out

SOUTH JERSEY
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SOUTH JERSEY

WHY DONT YOU HAVE FREEDOM?

Tom Larkin
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Tom Larkin

First, something positive. I was happy to learn of empirical information in article. BUT, the article was so slanted against President Trump as to be deemed fake news (“Perhaps Trump just lied.” (Two different issues)). The article mentions that President Trump raised over $67 million, but ended 2018 with $19 million. President Trump spent over $40 million 2016 and 2017. President Trump conducted 57 political rallies. The article notes the hats and T-shirts sold, but NEVER MENTIONS THE INCREASE IN THE NUMBER OF REPUBLICAN SENATORS during a mid-term election that lost the House and the number of political rallies in… Read more »

Ted Sirois
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Ted Sirois

At least Trump is getting donations from willing donors. Fresh from his first election, Obama used billions of our children’s tax dollars to save thousands of union jobs in the car industry and bailed out the banks and many Wall Street businesses. This secured his source of reelection funds for his reelection four years later.

South Jersey
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South Jersey

TRUMP 2020; IS AN AMAZINGLY SMART MAN! VERY ORIGINAL & CREATIVE. I AM HAPPY TO HAVE HIS AS POTUS.

SOUTH JERSEY
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SOUTH JERSEY

THIS ARTICLE WAS OBVIOUSLY WRITTEN BY, A TRUMP-HATE-GROUP. THAT FEELS; IT IS NOT NORMAL TO BE SUCCESSFUL WITH YOUR OWN BRAND NAME. WHEN, IF FACT, IT IS NORMAL! >>>>> THIS IS >>> FAKE NEWS!!! <<<< ie: A PACK-OF-LIES; SPUN INTO; DEFAMATION OF CHARACTER. FOR A SINISTER-AGENDA OF; FASCIST DEMOCRATIC SOCIALIST, COUP D'ETAT

David
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David

Are you on some kind of drugs? Writing in caps makes me think that you are grumpy old fart or a uneducated hillbilly.