Donald Trump Has Failed to Keep Promises on Conflicts and Lobbyist Influence
Report Details How Trump Is Profiting From the Presidency and Empowering Lobbyists and Big Donors
WASHINGTON, D.C. – President Donald Trump has failed to keep his pledge to “drain the swamp,” instead turning over the government to lobbyists and big donors and enriching his own bottom line, a new report released today by Public Citizen and Every Voice shows.
The report, “Broken Promises: How Trump Is Profiting Off the Presidency and Empowering Lobbyists and Big Donors,” analyzes the two months since Trump committed to uphold a set of ethical promises. The conclusion: The Trump administration is clouded by corruption and conflicts, and Trump has filled his administration with the same major donors and Wall Street executives he claimed he would fight if elected.
“The ethics commitments made by the Trump administration exactly two months ago were painfully inadequate, yet we at least imagined that the fanfare with which they were announced would cause someone to feel accountable to implementing them within the government,” said Lisa Gilbert, vice president of legislative affairs for Public Citizen. “Sadly, they have been unable to effectively follow even these milquetoast commitments, and the Trump administration is well on its way to becoming the most scandal-ridden administration in history.”
“Every day that Donald Trump refuses to take his conflicts of interest and the threat of wealthy special interest influence in his administration seriously, he fails the millions of voters who supported him because of their sincere belief he’d reduce the power of lobbyists and big donors if elected,” said David Donnelly, president and CEO of Every Voice. “In just two months, he has shown himself to be everything that on the campaign trail he expressed to hate about Washington – a self-dealer more interested in helping his friends and big donors than creating a democracy that works for all of us.”
In January, Trump released a plan in response to criticism about the conflicts of interest created by simultaneously overseeing the government and owning a business empire that has properties in countries that the U.S. negotiates with and whose bottom line is affected by federal rules. Trump has failed to uphold even the weak promises in his plan to keep his business interests separate from his presidency:
- Trump promised: To “isolate” himself from the management of the Trump family businesses. In reality: Trump’s business partners were invited to his inauguration; a Kuwaiti Embassy event at a Trump hotel raised questions about violations of the foreign bribery clause of the Constitution; Trump’s rollback of environmental protections will benefit his golf courses.
- Trump promised: That the Trump businesses will not pursue “new” foreign deals. In reality: After a decade of inaction, the family businesses restarted a Dominican Republic project; a fight over trademarks of Trump’s name in China was settled weeks after his inauguration, with the country approving the trademarks shortly after Trump asserted U.S. support for the “One China policy”; a businesswoman with ties to Chinese intelligence just bought a penthouse from Trump.
- Trump promised: To donate foreign profits from his Washington, D.C., hotel to the U.S. Treasury. In reality: He has not donated these profits; the Trump Organization announced that the donation would be made at the end of the year. It remains unclear how the profit will be calculated, and the money received from foreign entities that isn’t profit still violates the emoluments clause of the Constitution.
- Trump promised: To appoint an independent ethics officer for the Trump businesses. In reality: He appointed a loyal Republican election lawyer and a longtime attorney for the Trump family business. It’s not clear whether vetting is actually happening.
In addition, the report discusses how the ethics executive order that Trump signed scales back Trump’s ambitious pledge to reduce the power of lobbyists and, compared to the Obama administration’s ethics executive order, significantly weakens ethics oversight in the executive branch.
Trump appears to have fulfilled his promise to reinstitute a five-year ban on executive branch officials lobbying the government. However, the ban excludes lobbying activity on “rulemaking, adjudication and licensing” – nearly everything the executive branch does – making the lobbying ban virtually meaningless.
Trump issued a lifetime ban against senior executive branch officials lobbying on behalf of a foreign government. However, the ban does nothing to prevent outgoing appointees from capitalizing on their White House experience via business dealings with foreign governments – a situation that is not unlikely considering Trump’s Cabinet of corporate CEOs.
Additionally, Trump promised to ask Congress to pass a five-year lobbying ban and block lobbyists for foreign governments from spending in U.S. elections. He has done neither.