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Drain the Swamp? Not So Fast — Trump Begins to Embrace the Establishment

On November 8th, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump was elected president. To many, the image of an outsider promising to “drain the swamp” was enough to secure him the position.

When he was campaigning, Trump promised to rid Washington D.C. of corrupt politicians and outside interests, evoking the same sentiment President Ronald Reagan did decades ago. One year after taking office, Reagan told Americans it was “hard when you’re up to your armpits in alligators to remember you came here to drain the swamp.”

Just days after being elected, the Trump team published and distributed a list showcasing the president-elect’s transition team. What many in the media promptly noticed was the presence of certain corporate consultants and lobbyists, begging the question: Is he or is he not going to “drain the swamp?”

Related Reading: Lobbyists and Money in Politics: No More Than Legalized Bribery

Two names that stand out are Michael Catanzaro and Michael Torrey, who are heading the “energy independence” portfolio and the Department of Agriculture, respectively.

Catanzaro, the New York Times reports, is a lobbyist “whose clients include Devon Energy and Encana Oil and Gas,” two companies that “tried to challenge the Obama administration’s environmental and energy policies.” Torrey is also a lobbyist running “a firm that has earned millions of dollars helping food industry players such as the American Beverage Association and the dairy giant Dean Foods.”

Another lobbyist listed as a member of Trump’s transition team is Michael McKenna, whose client, Southern Company, is said to lobby heavily against climate change legislation.

Also on Trump’s list is the chairman of the Washington law firm representing the Association of American Railroads and the National Asphalt Pavement Association, Martin Whitmer, who is set to oversee “transportation and infrastructure.” Other advisers with ties to a variety of industries include David Malpass, the “former chief economist at Bear Stearns, the Wall Street investment bank that collapsed during the 2008 financial crisis,” and current president of Encima Global, a firm that provides independent economic and market research to institutional investors.”

Jeffrey Eisenach, who was picked to help Trump restructure the Federal Communications Commission (FCC)’s staff, is a telecom industry consultant who helped cellular companies fight FCC-proposed regulations mandating “net neutrality,” a policy that was heavily criticized by former congressman Ron Paul for “stifling competition and promoting favoritism.”

Heading the transition team for the Office of the United States Trade Representative is former chief executive of the steel company Nucor, Dan DiMicco. DiMicco is known for arguing that “China is unfairly subsidizing its manufacturing sector at the expense of American jobs.”

While Trump’s pivot is certainly noteworthy, for all the attention lobbyists and certain consultants on his team received from the media, few publications showed much concern for President Obama’s 2008 transition team.

President-Elect Obama filled his team with “more than a dozen [individuals who had] … worked as federally registered lobbyists.”

One of Obama’s transition board members was Mark Gitenstein, a lobbyist who “worked on million-dollar lobbying contracts with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and promoted legislation for giant defense contractors Boeing and General Dynamics.” Before the election, however, candidate Obama had promised to put an end to the “K Street lobbying culture he encountered when he joined the U.S. Senate.”

Despite the names with ties to private industries on Trump’s team, the New York Times adds, a “number of the people on that list are well-established experts with no clear interest in helping private-sector clients,” suggesting that most members of Trump’s transitional team aren’t beholden to private special interests.

Regardless of the team’s lack of private ties, some are veterans from other administrations, such as former Bush administration official and lobbyist Christine Ciccone and former Reagan Attorney General and Heritage fellow Edwin Meese. Others include former president of the Heritage Foundation Edwin Feulner, former Senate Budget Committee staffer Eric Ueland, former Rep. Mike Rogers, and Sen. Jeff Sessions’ former chief of staff, Rick Dearborn.

The team is headed by Vice President-Elect Mike Pence with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie serving as the vice chairman of the transition team’s executive committee, a change adopted recently by the Trump team. Others serving on the Trump executive committee include Dr. Ben Carson, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, Mr. Sessions, and retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, who once admitted the rise of the Islamic State was “a willful decision” of the Barack Obama administration. He has also criticized drone warfare and torture.

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