President Trump readily admits that the whole “drain the swamp” thing wasn’t his idea.
“You know, I told people the other day ‘drain the swamp,’ I said I don’t really like that expression; this was two weeks ago,” Trump said during a campaign stop in Las Vegas in late October. “I said, I don’t love that expression, so hokey. I thought it was hokey. . . . I said I hate to use this, it’s sort of like, it doesn’t work right. And I said it two weeks ago to a big crowd, and I said it, and the place went crazy. Then I said it a second time, and the place went even crazier. And then the third time, like you, they started saying it before I said it. And all of the sudden, I decided I love that expression; it’s a great expression.”
He came to embrace the slogan. He never came to embrace the concept behind it.
Granted, which swamp was being drained was always a little vague. Was it career politicians? Career bureaucrats? Obviously it was lobbyists, given how often Trump disparaged the work of lobbyists, who, he said, he knew well from his work in the private sector. Trump even came up with a pledge that members of his administration would have to sign, aimed at preventing conflicts of interest.
On Wednesday, we learned that 17 members of his administration had been granted waivers allowing them to continue to interact with former clients. Trump isn’t the first president to issue such waivers; Barack Obama also issued 17 waivers — over the course of his two terms in office.
What’s more, the administration has not been shy about hiring individuals who were once registered as lobbyists with the federal government. Data provided to The Washington Post by the liberal PAC American Bridge details the extent to which former lobbyists have made their way into the administration. Twenty work for the executive office of the president itself, including four so-called “super-lobbyists” — ones who represented at least 10 different companies or organizations before coming to work for the government.
What’s more, of the 74 lobbyists identified by American Bridge, 49 now work for agencies they used to lobby.
The data we were provided allows us to visualize those lobbyists in the Trump administration — his own personal swamp, if you will.
We’ve highlighted a few of the lobbyists and agencies. At lower center is the White House itself. At right, the Department of Homeland Security, which now employs a super-lobbyist who represented Boeing — which also employed another super-lobbyist who now works for the White House.
The third lobbyist who once represented Boeing was Michael Catanzano, a super-lobbyist who represented 15 different businesses or organizations, according to his federal filing records. Catanzano now works for the White House and was involved in the administration’s decision on whether to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement.
Trump’s apathy about the swamp on the campaign trail has transformed into an embrace of it. The swamp still comes in handy.