Trump Actions Counter Swamp-Draining Rhetoric, Sanders Says

Money & Politics Report provides comprehensive behind-the-scenes coverage of campaign finance, lobbying, and government ethics issues at the federal, state, and local levels.

By Kenneth P. Doyle

Nov. 15 — President-elect Donald Trump’s behavior since the Nov. 8 election hasn’t lived up to his promises on the campaign trail to “drain the swamp” of Washington special interests, Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) said Nov. 15.

Sanders, who ran for the Democratic presidential nomination, gained prominence with a campaign that, like Trump’s, criticized the influence of money in politics. He ultimately lost to Hillary Clinton in the primaries.

“We will remind the American people what he said. We will hold him accountable,” Sanders said of Trump.

Trump should leave intact ethics rules adopted by President Barack Obama designed to distance executive branch officials from special interest lobbying, Whitehouse said.

The senators commented on Trump in a teleconference with reporters.

Whitehouse pointed to an executive order (EO 13490) signed by Obama on Jan. 21, 2009, his first full day in office. The order required every executive branch appointee to sign a contract pledging not accept gifts from lobbyists and to adhere to strict “revolving door” restrictions limiting movement between government service and private sector jobs, including lobbying.

Revolving-Door Rules

The Obama order called for executive branch appointees moving from the private sector into the government to avoid involvement in “any particular matter” of direct or substantial interest to a former employer. The Obama rules also call for former government employees moving to the private sector to pledge to honor a two-year “cooling off” period before communicating with former government colleagues on behalf of a new employer. In addition, departing Obama administration employees were required to pledge not to lobby the administration for the remainder of Obama’s term.

In contrast with Obama’s strict ethics rules, Whitehouse and Sanders said, the developing Trump administration is welcoming lobbyists.

The senators said lobbyists for fossil fuel interests are being appointed to help the Trump transition on energy and environment issues and banking lobbyists are working on transition matters related to the economy.

Sanders also pointed specifically to the reported consideration of a veteran of Goldman Sachs Group Inc. for appointment as Treasury secretary. He was apparently referring to Steven Mnuchin, Trump’s campaign fundraiser and a former Goldman Sachs executive who was reported by Bloomberg News to be in line for the Treasury post.

Questioned about Democratic leaders who also have ties to Wall Street, Whitehouse and Sanders both said they would support the elevation of Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) to the post of Senate Minority Leader. Some have questioned whether Schumer, a veteran lawmaker from New York City, is too close to the financial industry. Whitehouse noted that Schumer has supported the key financial regulatory legislation known as Dodd-Frank.

Sanders said Schumer, himself, should answer any questions about his ties to Wall Street, and said he would not run against Schumer or the Senate Democrats’ No. 2 leader, Richard Durbin (Ill.), for the party leadership posts.

To contact the reporter on this story: Kenneth P. Doyle in Washington at kdoyle@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Paul Hendrie at phendrie@bna.com

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