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article imageTrump promised to 'Drain the swamp' — but a year on it flourishes

By Ken Hanly     Oct 19, 2017 in Politics
Washington - In late October 2016 it looked as if Donald Trump would lose the election to his rival Hillary Clinton as she led in the polls by eight percent. On October 17th Trump announced in a press release that it was time to drain the swamp in Washington.
Trump was claiming that special interests had inordinate influence over the government and was a main reason why the government was ineffective. The press release listed five ways that Trump would make the government honest again. Most measures involved restricting the power of lobbyists to influence the federal government. In a rally the next day in Colorado Springs Colorado he again brought up the issue and promised again to drain the swamp.
Trump did on January 28 sign Executive Order 13770 which was designed to curtail the back-and-forth movement between government and lobbyists. One senior White House official claimed that it was far more sweeping than restrictions Obama had in place. However, Obama's ethics lawyer, Norman Eisen pointed out that the bill effectively allows for anyone to receive a waiver from its provisions. The waiver can even be granted retroactively. Obama had been subject to criticism for using waivers.
Lobbying booming
Many Washington lobbyists claim business is better than ever under Trump. Spending on lobbying rose to almost $1.7 billion in the first half of this year, the most since 2012 according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Brian Wild, a Republican lobbyist and former aide to the House Speaker John Boehner said: “I don’t think that anything’s really changed. If anything, the lobbying business is booming right now.”
Although draining the swamp as a slogan was used by Trump to lash out at many aspects of the Washington establishment when it was first announced it was tied to five specific rules for lobbyists a package of ethics reforms to make the government honest again.
However only the one reform discussed earlier has been fully implemented and it contains provisions allowing for waivers. The executive order banned executive branch officials from lobbying for foreign governments and overseas political parties after they leave the administration. It has never been clarified exactly how the ban will be enforced.
In the executive order, another pledge was watered down in that it would have barred executive branch officials from lobbying for five years but this was watered down to barring them from lobbying the agencies where they worked. He also promised to make this a law but he has not asked Congress to pass such a law yet.
Pledges and bills
Trump also promised to broaden the definition of lobbying, to ban lobbyists for foreign interests from making campaign contributions, and finally to lengthen the time former lawmakers are banned from lobbying. The Trump administration has given little attention to these pledges. When Trump addressed Congress last February when presidents typically set out their agenda, Trump said nothing about these three pledges but just praised the steps he claimed to have already taken to "drain the swamp of government corruption".
However, Representative Bill Posey a Florida Republican who in July introduced a bill that would ban former members of Congress for lobbying for five years and former staffer for two years claimed that the Trump administration had encouraged his office and other offices to proceed with "drain the swamp" legislation. Posey has introduced this bill several times since 2012.
Other lawmakers who introduced bills to place more restrictions on lobbyists claim they have heard nothing from the Trump administration, including bills by Al Franken, and Republican Cory Gardner. Peter DeFazio a Democrat introduced a bill that would make into law Trump's executive order ban on administration officials lobbying until 5 years after leaving government but he has not heard back from the White House.
Brad Gerstman a New York lobbyist claimed that Trump voters understand the "drain the swamp' slogan as being a much broader promise and that the new lobbying rules were small-ticket items. A recent article in The Atlantic goes into some detail about the ways that the Trump administration has violated his pledge to drain the swamp.
Here are just a few examples of additions to the swamp: Corey Lewandowski, who worked as Trump’s campaign manager, moved to Washington, D.C., and started a Beltway lobbying firm, where he accepted lots of money from special interests that were trying to influence Trump.
Meanwhile, The New York Times reported, “Established K Street firms were grabbing any Trump people they could find: Jim Murphy, Trump’s former political director, joined the lobbying giant BakerHostetler, while another firm, Fidelis Government Relations, struck up a partnership with Bill Smith, Mike Pence’s former chief of staff. All told, close to 20 ex-aides of Trump, friends, and hangers-on had made their way into Washington’s influence business.”
This is just a small sample of many listed in the article.
Trump is not the first president to promise to drain the swamp. On the first anniversary of his inauguration Ronald Reagan reminded his Cabinet that they were there to drain the swamp. In 2006 House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi used the phrase as the Democrats were running to gain control of the House. So far the swamp survives and is replenished periodically.
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