A new report has found that Washington's “swamp” of lobbyists appears to have expanded during President Donald Trump's short time in office, with scores of former campaign staffers, transition workers and even a brief administration official, parlaying their connections into “K street” cash.
At least 44 registered federal lobbyists with ties to Trump or Vice President Mike Pence have collectively billed nearly $41.8 million, according to an analysis of federal lobbying disclosure filings through Aug. 31, by Public Citizen, a public interest group, that was also reviewed by The Associated Press.
The analysis only includes those who registered and submitted the required federal lobbying disclosures; it doesn't include individuals like ex-Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, who co-founded a lobbying firm after not receiving a role in Trump's administration.
Among the findings:
- Seven of the 10 most lucrative clients for Trump-tied lobbyists have been foreign interests, including the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, a private equity group that successfully received government approval to take over the for-profit college chain University of Phoenix, the Embassy of the State of Qatar, the Republic of Turkey and the directors of Wells Fargo, which has faced increased government scrutiny after its workers created bogus accounts for unwitting clients.
- While transition team workers also received guidelines to avoid lobbying activities related to their team work for six months, the report found that those guidelines were ignored or ineffectual in many cases. It counted 17 individuals who worked for the transition, which is partly paid for by taxpayer dollars, engaged in lobbying during the first six months. They collectively billed $19.3 million through August.
- A week into his term, Trump issued an executive order on ethics banning executive appointees from lobbying their agencies for five years after leaving office. The ban falls short of Trump's campaign promise of an overall prohibition on White House and congressional officials becoming lobbyists.
- Because the Trump campaign was small by modern standards and less connected to the Republican establishment and traditional lobbying firms, his presidency has brought new blood and firms to the Washington lobbying scene. These include Brian Ballard, a Florida-based lobbyist for the Trump Organization who opened a Washington office less than two weeks after the inauguration. He's billed nearly $5.2 million through August.