Leaders of Donald Trump’s transition team are slated to meet Friday with technology lobbyists to seek their input on policy, capping a string of sessions with the Washington establishment the GOP presidential nominee often rails against.
It is the third policy-oriented meeting initiated in the last month by the Trump transition team to solicit input from industry lobbyists. The previous two focused on the financial services and energy sectors, according to people with knowledge of the meetings.
Many GOP lobbyists are planning to attend the meeting despite their personal distaste for Trump and plans not to vote for him — showing K Street is begrudgingly accepting the possibility of working with a Trump White House, a notion they scoffed at not long ago.
“It’s the first time I’m not voting for a Republican,” said one GOP lobbyist who was invited to a transition meeting but didn’t want to speak on the record for fear of alienating Trump’s team. “But at the same time, I’m a Republican lobbyist. It’s my job. I still have a job to do, to do due diligence and get to know these people.”
Republican lobbyists expressed what could be termed as a resigned sense of duty in describing why they agreed to meet with the GOP presidential nominee’s transition team. If Trump wins the White House, he will need to expand his small circle of advisers to more experienced hands who could help him implement his agenda in Washington.
Republicans are much less excited, however, about meeting with Trump’s team than Democratic lobbyists seem to be about contact with former Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, chair of the Hillary Clinton transition.
“You have Democrats clamoring to meet with Salazar,” said another Republican lobbyist, who also did not want to speak on the record. “On the Republican side, it’s like, ‘I know I should, but should I really?’ We have to come through these larger crisis of conscience decisions.”
If Trump is serious about making policy changes, meeting with lobbyists is part of learning how the government operates, said GOP lobbyist Rick Hohlt, who’s been involved in every Republican transition since 1980.
“If he’s serious, he needs to talk to the people who know how the place runs,” Hohlt said. “You want to gather the information just like if you were doing any kind of project. You need to build the three-ring binder. Who knows more about the three-ring binder? The people on the Hill, the people downtown. The lobbyists provide the information and knowledge base.”
A number of lobbyists are involved in the Trump campaign and transition already. Mike Catanzaro, a partner at the lobby firm CGCN, is leading the transition’s energy policy team. Christine Ciccone, a lobbyist who was a top official for Jeb Bush’s 2016 campaign, was brought on by the Trump transition team in recent weeks, as was Eric Ueland, a top staffer for the Senate Budget Committee and former vice president of the lobby firm Duberstein Group.
Some GOP lobbyists are skeptical about how seriously their input on substantive policy issues will be considered by the unconventional candidate, noting that invites also included language soliciting donations of $5,000. Christie has said his goal is to raise $2 million for the transition, and is said to be about halfway there, CNN reported.
Trump has been vague on many policy issues, with his most high-profile proposal being building a wall to prevent undocumented immigration from Mexico.
Still, many Republican lobbyists are maintaining communications with transition staff out of a sense of obligation to their party and their job — clients are pressing their hired guns to not just advocate for them on Capitol Hill, but also with transition staff in case Trump wins.
“None of us particularly like [Trump], but this is a creature we may have to deal with,” said one of the GOP lobbyists who was asked to attend a transition meeting.
The tech meeting, first reported in Politico, is expected to be well-attended despite many tech lobbyists’ reservations about Trump. It “will be an inside look at the work underway on planning for the transition,” according to an invite obtained by the Post.
A spokeswoman for the Trump campaign did not return a request for comment.
In September, Christie met with former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, president and chief executive of the Financial Services Roundtable, and Dean Sackett of the Investment Company Institute, the trade group that represents investment firms. The transition team also met with about 50 energy company representatives and lobbyists, according to a person with knowledge of the meeting. The meetings were held at BGR Group, the lobby firm founded by Ed Rogers and Haley Barbour.