The chant echoed through Donald Trump’s boisterous rallies leading up to Election Day: “Drain the swamp! Drain the swamp! Drain the swamp!”
“We are fighting for every citizen that believes that government should serve the people, not the donors and not the special interests,” the billionaire real estate developer promised exuberant supporters at his last campaign rally in Manchester, N.H.
But just days later, there is little evidence that the president-elect is seeking to restrain wealthy interests from having access and influence in his administration.
It’s not just corporate lobbyists who are playing early, visible roles in the new power structure. Some of Trump’s biggest political donors are shaping the incoming administration
Meanwhile, top campaign fundraisers and a raft of lobbyists tied to some of the country’s wealthiest industries have been put in charge of hiring and planning for specific federal agencies. They include J. Steven Hart, chairman of the law and lobbying shop Williams & Jensen; Michael McKenna, an energy company lobbyist who is overseeing planning for the Energy Department; and Dallas fundraiser Ray Washburne, was has been tapped to oversee the Commerce Department.
On Friday, the Trump Organization said it was focused on identifying how to “immediately transfer” management to his three oldest children — an arrangement government ethics experts said was fraught with conflicts, particularly since his children are also helping oversee the transition.
Meredith McGehee, who heads policy and strategy for Issue One, a bipartisan group that aims to reduce the influence of wealthy interests on politics, said there is “tremendous dissonance” between Trump’s rhetoric and early actions.
“Much of what he said was, ‘I’m going to change the game,’ ” she said. “Of all of his messages, that one I think clearly resonated the strongest. That’s going to be incredibly difficult when the people you bring in are the experts at making the game work for them.”
Trump aides and transition officials did not respond to repeated requests for comment about what role donors and lobbyists will play in the administration.
(Excerpted from Washington Post 11/11/16)