Lobbyists connected to Trump raise $ 10 billion in COVID-19 boom, report says

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WASHINGTON – Forty lobbyists with ties to US President Donald Trump have helped their clients get more than $ 10 billion in federal coronavirus aid, including five former government officials whose work could potentially violate own policy Trump’s ethics, according to a report. Lobbyists identified by the Public Citizen monitoring group on Monday worked in Trump’s executive branch, participated in his campaign, were part of the committee that raised funds for the inaugural festivities or participated in his presidential transition. Many are donors to Trump’s campaigns, and some are prolific fundraisers for his re-election.

They include Brian Ballard, who served during the transition, is the finance chairman of the Republican National Committee and has raised more than $ 1 million for Trump’s fundraising committees. He was hired in March by Laundrylux, a supplier of commercial washing machines, after the Department of Homeland Security issued directives that did not include laundromats as essential businesses that could remain open during the lockout. A week later, the administration issued new guidelines adding laundry facilities to the list.

Dave Urban, Trump’s advisor and confidant, has raised more than $ 2.3 million in lobbying fees this year. The company he heads, American Continental Group, represents 15 companies, including Walgreens and the parent company of the Ultimate Fighting Championship, on coronavirus problems.

Trump has pledged to suppress Washington’s influence with a campaign mantra “drain the swamp.” But during its administration, the lobbying industry flourished, a trend that intensified after Congress spent more than $ 3.6 trillion in stimulus against coronaviruses.

While the money was intended to save a nation whose economy was upset by the pandemic, it also sparked a familiar lobbying boon.

“The swamp is alive and well in Washington, DC,” said Mike Tanglis, one of the report’s authors. “These (lobbying) booms these people have, you can really attribute to their connection to Trump. ”

The White House did not respond to a request for comment.

Shortly after Trump took office, he issued an executive order prohibiting ex-government officials from pressuring the agency or office where they were previously employed, for a period of five years. Another section of the ordinance prohibits lobbying the administration by former political candidates during the remainder of Trump’s tenure.

However, five lobbyists who are former administration officials did so during the coronavirus lobbying boom:

  • Courtney Lawrence was a former Assistant Undersecretary for Legislation at the Department of Health and Social Services in 2017 and 2018. She became a lobbyist for Cigna in 2018 and is on the list of a team that lobbied HHS , the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid services and at least two other agencies. Cigna did not respond to a request for comment.

  • Shannon McGahn, wife of former White House lawyer Don McGahn, worked in 2017 and 2018 as advisor to Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin. She then joined the National Association of Realtors as a leading lobbyist and is on the disclosures as part of a team that lobbied both houses of Congress, as well as six agencies, including the Department of the Treasury. The real estate agents’ association did not respond to a request for comment.

  • Jordan Stoick is vice president of government relations at the National Association of Manufacturers. Stoick’s biography on the NAM website indicates that he is “NAM’s main lobbyist in Washington”, where he started working after being a senior advisor in the Treasury Department. The revelations indicate that Stoick and his colleagues lobbied the two chambers of Congress as well as at least five executive agencies, including the Treasury.

“NAM carefully adheres to the legal and ethical rules governing lobbying activities, including ensuring that its employees comply with all applicable prohibitions against contacting their former employers,” said Linda Kelly, the organization’s general counsel, in a statement. .

  • Geoffrey Burr joined Brownstein Hyatt after serving as chief of staff to Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao. The company’s lobbying disclosure for the first quarter of 2020 includes Burr on a list of lobbyists who have contacted the White House and Congress on issues related to coronaviruses on behalf of McDonald’s.

  • Emily Felder joined Brownstein Hyatt after leaving the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, where she worked in the legislative office. Felder is listed on a first quarter 2020 disclosure that shows that she was part of a team that lobbied Congress and the White House.

A cabinet spokeswoman said Felder and Burr abide by the Trump administration’s rules of ethics, which limit their lobbying in the House and Senate.

“We are confident that our lobbyists abide by all applicable lobbying rules and prohibitions and have not breached their commitment to the Trump administration,” spokeswoman Lara Day said in a statement.

Craig Holman of Public Citizen, who is himself a registered lobbyist, said the group intended to file ethics complaints with the White House. But he is not optimistic that they will lead to anything. Last year, he filed more than 30 complaints, all of which were ignored or dismissed.

“There seems to be no one to enforce the decree,” said Holman.

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