Shock doctrine in action: Trump friends, former staff cash in on COVID-19 crisis

Shock doctrine in action: Trump friends, former staff cash in on COVID-19 crisis

It’s all grift all the time in Trump world. And very, very swampy. A Public Citizen analysis has uncovered 40 Trump-connected lobbyists—including five former administration officials—securing more than $10 billion in coronavirus aid from the federal government and says that former administration officials lobbying violates Trump’s own ethics policy. (I know, right? Trump and ethics in the same sentence.)

The 40 lobbyists were in the administration, on Trumps’ campaign, on the inaugural committee, and on the transition team. Many are major donors and fundraisers for his reelection. They are very prominent, establishment Republicans. For example, the finance chair for the Republican National Committee, Brian Ballard, was on Trump’s transition team and has raised more than $1 million for Trump. In March he became the lobbyist for Laundrylux, which supplies commercial laundry machines. Laundromats were not included in the Department of Homeland Security’s initial guidance as essential businesses that could remain open. After Ballard’s hiring, presto—they were added to the list. It’s unclear how much Ballard took home for that bit of intervention. Trump adviser Dave Urban has definitely earned $2.3 million this year lobbying for companies like Walgreens during coronavirus.

A former deputy assistant secretary for legislation in the Department of Health and Human Services under Trump, Courtney Lawrence, is now a lobbyist for health insurance giant Cigna. The spouse of former White House counsel Don McGahn, Shannon McGahn, worked for Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin in 2017-18. Now she’s the top lobbyist for the National Association of Realtors, where she lobbies her former coworkers at Treasury in addition to Congress and other agencies.

Another former Treasury senior staffer, Jordan Stoick, is vice president of government relations at the National Association of Manufacturers. He also lobbies his former coworkers at Treasury. McDonald’s has Geoffrey Burr lobbying for it through the firm Brownstein Hyatt. He worked for Treasury Secretary Elaine Chao, who is married to Mitch McConnell. Who Burr lobbies. One of his colleagues at that lobbying shop is Emily Felder, who used to work for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. She’s been lobbying both the White House and Congress on coronavirus issues.

The disclosure for all these people show them lobbying both the administration and Congress, and some of them lobby their own former agencies. The executive order Trump signed in his first weeks in office—the one about the swamp—ostensibly prohibited former officials from lobbying their old agencies for at least five years after leaving the government job, and supposedly prohibits former political appointees from lobbying for the duration of Trump’s term in office. For some reason, enforcing those executive orders hasn’t been a priority for Trump. Go figure.

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