Elected on a promise to “drain the swamp” of Washington lobbyists and insiders, President Donald Trump has instead simply reshaped the landscape on K Street, allowing a new set of self-professed Trump savants to reap the rewards of the country’s — and the world’s — special interests.
A New York Times report published Wednesday details how dozens of former Trump advisers, campaign aides, and friends are making millions as lobbyists for foreign governments and companies, US CEOs, and more establishment lobbying firms.
The new DC profiteers, who include Trump’s former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, have joined a sea of 10,000 registered lobbyists and thousands more unregistered who feed off of the moneyed interests attempting to sway policy and politics in Washington.
Following the election, Lewandowski set up shop just blocks from the White House, founding the lobbying firm Avenue Strategies, which has raked in millions advising dozens of corporate and government clients, including the CEOs of Lockheed Martin and Whirlpool, Venezuela’s state-owned oil company, and a conservative Albanian politician.
The firm occasionally asks for $US50,000 a month from these clients — more than three times the amount a typical boutique firm charges.
At one point, a client offered Lewandowski $US250,000 to get Trump to tweet about them, the Times reported. In another instance, a wealthy Trump fan promised a million dollars if the former Trump adviser could organise a photo op with the president in the Oval Office.
“Many companies want to understand: What are the president’s priorities?” Lewandowski told the Times’ Nick Confessore last February. “But there are so few people in Washington who have a relationship or an understanding of him.”
Lewandowski counts himself among those few.
“I think what I bring is a level of understanding of the president’s thought process,” he added, “only because I had the privilege of being next to him for so long.”
Following heightening criticism for his ties to foreign interests, Lewandowski left Avenue and founded a new political consulting company, Lewandowski Strategic Advisors, where he’s evading the title of a registered lobbyist.
Meanwhile, many others, some of whom Lewandowski has derided as frauds, are similarly selling their proximity to the White House and understanding of the president’s thinking.
“All of K Street is doing well right now,” Bary Bennett, a former Trump aide who co-founded Avenue Strategies with Lewandowski, told the Times. “Chaos is good for everyone’s business.”