The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Sustain the swamp: Hundreds of lobbyists swim through Trump’s administration

President Trump during a campaign rally at the El Paso County Coliseum, Monday, Feb. 11, 2019, in El Paso, Texas. (Eric Gay/AP)

When President Trump first incorporated his pledge to “drain the swamp” into his campaign speeches in October 2016, he told audiences that he’d been lukewarm on the slogan at first.

“You know,” he told an audience in North Carolina, “I said that about a week ago and I didn’t like it that much, didn’t sound that great. And the whole world picked it up.”

He talked a bit more about draining the swamp and then returned to his initial reticence.

“I was listening the other day to a great singer, great, one of the great legends, and said that, you know, so and so didn’t like it, didn’t like it, became one of the greatest hits of all time,” he said. “So drain the swamp, I didn’t like it, now I love it, right?”

One might have thought at the time that Trump didn’t initially like the slogan because it was corny or off message. But now it seems fairer to assume that he didn’t like the slogan because he didn’t actually mind the swamp one bit.

There are lots of ways in which one might measure D.C.'s swampiness, but few are more obvious than to track the movement of lobbyists. These are the swamp’s alligators as it’s commonly understood, chewing through ... money, I guess? The analogy doesn’t really work that well, honestly, but let’s not let that detract from the point.

Data provided to The Post by the liberal organization American Bridge 21st Century identifies over 350 individuals who’ve worked as lobbyists who currently work in the administration, have worked in it or have been nominated to serve in Trump’s administration. Cumulatively, they’ve represented more than 2,800 companies at one point or another, according to lobbying registration documents. Nearly 200 of them now served or have been nominated to serve in divisions of government that they once lobbied.

Where did the largest number of them land? Right in the executive office of the president. Nearly 50 former lobbyists transitioned to Trump’s team.

We can look at this another way. There are 33 companies or organizations that each have at least five former lobbyists who made their way into the Trump administration. This is what the interplay of those firms and Trump administration agencies looks like.

When we looked at this a few months after Trump had taken office, the number of lobbyists who’d already gone to work for Trump was about 70.

Since then, the swamp has gotten more densely packed. But, to be fair to Trump, he never really liked that “drain the swamp" line anyway.