'Drain the swamp?' Trump's transition team is full of DC lobbyists and insiders

An organizational chart released by the Trump campaign to various media outlets detailing who will handle his transition into office is filled with Washington lobbyists, insiders, and GOP veterans.

The first step of Trump’s transition to the presidency has led to questions about a signature promise late in his campaign that he would “drain the swamp” — that is, cleanse Washington of political insiders who are out of touch with the needs and demands of ordinary Americans.

These people leading Trump’s transition team will be tasked with vetting nominees for various appointments — nominees likely to come from the pool of DC insiders Trump’s transition team is already familiar with.

Poised to head Trump’s economic team are Bill Walton, chairman of the DC-based private equity firm Rappahannock Ventures, and David Malpass, an economist and former Reagan administration treasury official.

Dan DiMicco, the former CEO of the largest steel producer in the United States, Nucor, was listed as Trump’s trade representative on the transition team.

The man in charge of “Independent Financial Agencies,” according to the chart, is former Securities and Exchange (SEC) Commissioner Paul Atkins. Atkins is now the CEO of Patomak Global Partners, a private DC firm that consults companies on how to navigate post-financial crisis Dodd-Frank financial regulatory overhaul, to which Atkins staunchly opposed.

Former congressman Mike Rogers is slated to lead the national-security transition. And former Ohio official and George W. Bush honorary campaign co-chair, Ken Blackwell, will be in charge of domestic issues, including health and human services, labour, and environmental protection.

Trump has called for a five-year ban on members of Congress and executive branch officials who want to become lobbyists after leaving government. Rogers served as a US Representative for Michigan’s 8th Congressional district from 2001 to 2015 and founded the lobbying group
Americans for Peace, Prosperity and Security (APPS) the year he left office.

APPS is comprised of former government officials with ties to military contractors who advocate “American engagement and a strong foreign policy.” Rogers has said that the FBI needs to be given more “surveillance capability,” and has described himself as a close personal friend of Vice President-elect Mike Pence.

Blackwell served as the mayor of Cincinnati from 1979 to 1980, the Ohio State Treasurer from 1994 to 1999, and Ohio Secretary of State from 1999 to 2007. He was attacked by Democrats in 2004 over alleged voter suppression policies in Ohio, and is a senior fellow at the Family Research Council, an anti-gay marriage and anti-abortion group.

The management and budget team is being jointly handled by former Attorney General Ed Meese and Kay Coles James, a former director of the Office of Personnel Management who served under George W. Bush. Ado Machida, a top domestic policy aide to former Vice President Dick Cheney, is also on the list.

Meese served in the Reagan administration before becoming a top fellow
at the Heritage Foundation — a conservative think tank that has been embedded in DC politics for 40 years. Heavy on Heritage Foundation personnel, Trump’s team told CNN it would be open to policy recommendations from K Street, where most of the capital’s think tanks, lobbyists, and advocacy groups are concentrated.

Trump’s Homeland Security team, for example, is being led by Cindy Hayden, a director at the US tobacco giant Altria. Jim Carter, an in-house lobbyist for the manufacturing company Emerson, has been tasked with overseeing tax reform policies.

Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s transition team banned lobbyists altogether, Politico reported late last month.

A former Bush administration official told Politico that it would be “a mistake” for a leader to deprive himself of lobbyists, who are “some of the most seasoned and capable people able to responsibly pull the levers of government.”

Others think it’s a positive sign that Trump isn’t “going rogue,” so to speak. Business Insider senior editor Josh Barro argued on Wednesday that “Americans — and especially Republicans — of expertise and talent and character should be encouraged to go to work in his administration.”

“Our president-elect is woefully unprepared for the job he is about to enter, and temperamentally unsuited to it,” Barro wrote. “
What Trump needs most is new, normal staff.”

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