Report: Some Reaped Windfall From Virus07/06 06:59
Forty lobbyists with ties to President Donald Trump helped clients secure
more than $10 billion in federal coronavirus aid, among them five former
administration officials whose work potentially violates Trump's own ethics
policy, according to a report.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Forty lobbyists with ties to President Donald Trump
helped clients secure more than $10 billion in federal coronavirus aid, among
them five former administration officials whose work potentially violates
Trump's own ethics policy, according to a report.
The lobbyists identified Monday by the watchdog group Public Citizen either
worked in the Trump executive branch, served on his campaign, were part of the
committee that raised money for inaugural festivities or were part of his
presidential transition. Many are donors to Trump's campaigns, and some are
prolific fundraisers for his reelection.
They include Brian Ballard, who served on the transition, is the finance
chair for the Republican National Committee and has bundled more than $1
million for Trump's fundraising committees. He was hired in March by
Laundrylux, a supplier of commercial laundry machines, after the Department of
Homeland Security issued guidance that didn't include laundromats as essential
businesses that could stay open during the lockdown. A week later, the
administration issued new guidance adding laundromats to the list.
Dave Urban, a Trump adviser and confidant, has collected more than $2.3
million in lobbying fees this year. The firm he leads, American Continental
Group, represents 15 companies, including Walgreens and the parent company of
the Ultimate Fighting Championship, on coronavirus issues.
Trump pledged to clamp down on Washington's influence peddling with a "drain
the swamp" campaign mantra. But during his administration, the lobbying
industry has flourished, a trend that intensified once Congress passed more
than $3.6 trillion in coronavirus stimulus.
While the money is intended as a lifeline to a nation whose economy has been
upended by the pandemic, it also jump-started a familiar lobbying bonanza.
"The swamp is alive and well in Washington, D.C.," said Mike Tanglis, one of
the report's authors. "These (lobbying) booms that these people are having, you
can really attribute them to their connection to Trump."
The White House did not respond to a request for comment.
Shortly after Trump took office, he issued an executive order prohibiting
former administration officials from lobbying the agency or office where they
were formerly employed, for a period of five years. Another section of the
order forbids lobbying the administration by former political appointees for
the remainder of Trump's time in office.
Yet five lobbyists who are former administration officials have potentially
done just that during the coronavirus lobbying boom:
Courtney Lawrence was a former deputy assistant secretary for legislation in
the Department of Health and Human Services in 2017 and 2018. She became a
lobbyist for Cigna in 2018 and is listed as part of a team that has lobbied
HHS, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and at least two other
agencies. Cigna did not respond to a request for comment.
Shannon McGahn, the wife of former White House counsel Don McGahn, worked in
2017 and 2018 as a counselor to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. She then
joined the National Association of Realtors as its top lobbyist and is listed
on disclosures as part of a team that has lobbied both houses of Congress, plus
six agencies, including the Treasury Department. The Realtors association did
not respond to a request for comment.
Jordan Stoick is the vice president of government relations at the National
Association of Manufacturers. Stoick's biography on NAM's website indicates
that he is "NAM's lead lobbyist in Washington," where he started working after
serving as a senior adviser in the Treasury Department. Disclosures indicate
that Stoick and his colleagues lobbied both houses of Congress plus at least
five executive branch agencies, including Treasury.
"NAM carefully adheres to the legal and ethical rules regulating lobbying
activity, including ensuring that its employees comply with all applicable
prohibitions on contacting their former employers," Linda Kelly, the
organization's general counsel, said in a statement.
Geoffrey Burr joined the firm Brownstein Hyatt after serving as chief of
staff to Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao. The firm's lobbying disclosure
for the first quarter of 2020 includes Burr on a list of lobbyists who
contacted the White House and Congress on coronavirus-related matters on behalf
Emily Felder joined Brownstein Hyatt after leaving the Centers for Medicare
and Medicaid Services, where she worked in the legislative office. Felder is
listed on a disclosure from the first quarter of 2020 that shows she was part
of a team that lobbied Congress and the White House.
A spokeswoman for the firm said both Felder and Burr abide by the Trump
administration's ethics rules, which limit their lobbying to the House and the
"We are confident that our lobbyists are in compliance with all lobbying
rules and applicable prohibitions and did not violate their Trump
Administration pledge," spokeswoman Lara Day said in a statement.
Public Citizen's Craig Holman, who himself is a registered lobbyist, said
the group intends to file ethics complaints with the White House. But he's not
optimistic that they will lead to anything. Last year, he filed more than 30
complaints, all of which were either ignored or rejected.
"There does not appear to be anyone who is enforcing the executive order,"