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Labor Secretary-designate Andrew Puzder contributed generously to Republican lawmakers over the years, including some who will vote on his confirmation.
Puzder, the chief executive officer of CKE Restaurants Inc., has given a total of $1.3 million to Republican candidates, committees and organizations since 1990. That includes $146,300 to the campaign of 16 sitting Republican senators or political groups supporting them. Puzder’s is one of the largest campaign contribution totals among Trump Cabinet picks, according to data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics.
The contributions don’t necessarily mean Puzder will get a pass during the confirmation process, tentatively scheduled to start with a Jan. 17 hearing. The data does show, however, that Puzder has been an active presence in Republican fund-raising circles.
It’s not unusual for presidential picks for various key positions to have contributed to a presidential or Senate campaign. But large contributions are less ordinary for those seeking the top DOL post and other Cabinet spots, according to Sarah Binder, a political science professor at George Washington University.
“I think if there’s a departure from past practices here, it’s that contributors tended in the past to end up in ambassador slots or at Commerce,” she told Bloomberg BNA Jan. 9. “What’s unusual is that so many of Trump’s cabinet nominees to lead major departments are multimillionaires or billionaires. Those posts have typically gone to people from the public sector, who tend not to be big campaign contributors.”
Puzder is expected to get full Republican support from the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. If approved by the panel, his name will be sent to the Senate floor for a simple majority vote.
A Trump transition team aide told Bloomberg BNA Jan. 9 that Puzder is among many nominees who have given to political campaigns.
“It’s not unusual for nominees to be politically active and Andy is no exception, having contributed to numerous republican and democratic lawmakers over many years,” the aide said in the statement. “What should be questioned is whether the significant financial contributions to democrats on the HELP Committee from unions and special interests opposing Andy’s nomination has swayed their opinions.”
The data from the Center for Responsive Politics lists donations from 1990 through the 2016 election cycle. The organization provided total amounts contributed, but it did not specify which candidate received the money in a particular year.
Puzder’s contributions to sitting senators range from a total of $32,400 to Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) to $1,000 to Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), a member of the HELP Committee.
Outside of Cruz, the largest level of campaign contributions include a total of $30,600 to Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and outside groups supporting him and $20,400 to Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) and political action committees supporting him. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) is the only Democrat to receive funds from Puzder, totaling $5,359, according to the data.
Rubio in an e-mail to Bloomberg BNA didn’t address a question about potential conflicts of interest related to the Puzder contributions. Through a spokesman, he characterized the contributions as support for his political agenda.
“When people contribute to my campaign, they support my agenda,” Rubio said in the Jan. 9 e-mail. “I appreciate that Mr. Puzder agrees with my agenda and I look forward to supporting his nomination.”
Officials for Cruz, Blunt and Feinstein didn’t immediately respond to Bloomberg BNA’s request for comment Jan. 9.
The question of conflicts of interest for supporting the sitting senators’ political campaigns could come up during the confirmation hearing, Professor Victoria Nourse of Georgetown University Law Center told Bloomberg BNA Jan. 9
“This is an obvious conflict of interest that opposition senators should raise in the hearings,” she said. “It also shows that the revolving door of the ‘swamp’ is alive and well in the Trump administration’s nominees. Much less of a conflict would have raised eyebrows with earlier nominees.”
To contact the reporter on this story: Tyrone Richardson in Washington at email@example.com
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