Lobbyists who joined the Trump administration and now want to return to their old trade have a problem: President Trump said they can’t.
Days after taking office, President Donald Trump signed an executive order requiring every political appointee to sign a pledge as a condition of taking office. The appointees agreed not to lobby the agencies they had worked in for five years after they left government service. Nor would they lobby anyone in the White House or political appointees across federal agencies for the duration of the Trump administration.
But never doubt the ingenuity of the Washington swamp class. At least eight former Trump officials have found ways around the so-called ethics pledge.
Using staffing lists compiled for ProPublica’s Trump Town, the first exhaustive database of current political appointees, we found at least 184 people who have left the Trump administration. Of those, at least six former officials are now registered lobbyists and several others work at firms in roles that resemble lobbying in all but name.
Their techniques vary from the bureaucratic to the audacious: Some former officials are tiptoeing around the rules by not registering as lobbyists or by exploiting loopholes. Others obtained special waivers allowing them to go back to lobbying. And at least one never signed the pledge at all.
Needless to say, roundtrip traffic between lobbying and government has long been endemic in Washington. The Obama administration, despite campaign promises to the contrary, hired dozens of previously registered lobbyists and many officials returned to K Street firms afterward. “The revolving door is a persistent feature of Washington if you work in an administration and you develop some expertise over an area of policymaking,” said Lee Drutman, a senior fellow who studies lobbying at New America, a left-leaning Washington think tank. “There’s a high demand for someone with your knowledge and connections.”