Before Donald Trump took office, the U.S. Energy secretary was Ernest Moniz, one of the nation’s leading nuclear physicists and a longtime MIT professor. He succeeded Barack Obama’s first Energy secretary, Steven Chu, a Nobel laureate and a celebrated physics professor at UC Berkley.
Even George W. Bush seemed to recognize the importance of having someone with a strong scientific background in this post, making Samuel Bodman, who had an MIT chemical engineering background, as his Energy secretary.
Trump, however, went in a very different direction, tapping Texas Gov. Rick Perry for the job, despite the fact that the governor had no scientific background, and despite the fact that Perry had publicly called for the elimination of the cabinet agency he’d soon lead.
Embroiled in scandal, Perry is stepping down, and now we know whom the Republican president has in mind as his successor in the cabinet.
President Donald Trump on Friday tapped Deputy Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette to succeed Energy Secretary Rick Perry, who is expected to leave the agency’s top post at the end of the year.
Brouillette – whose broad experience in Washington’s backrooms includes stints as a top lobbyist for the Ford Motor Company, the chief of staff for the House Energy and Commerce Committee and senior Energy Department roles in multiple administrations – is a “total professional,” Trump said in nominating him.
In a GOP-led Senate, Brouillette’s confirmation is a safe bet, and when he arrives in the White House cabinet, he’ll be one of several members with backgrounds in corporate lobbying. Indeed, Brouillette was a top lobbyist for Ford, and his nomination comes on the heels of Trump tapping Mark Esper, a former lobbyist for a leading defense contractor, to serve as the secretary of Defense.
That nomination came just one month after the president traveled to Orlando to officially launch his re-election campaign, boasting to supports, “We stared down the unholy alliance of lobbyists and donors and special interests, who made a living bleeding our country dry. That’s what we’ve done.”
As regular readers know, it’s not at all what Trump and his team have done. In fact, at the next cabinet meeting, Brouillette and Esper will be joined by Interior Secretary David Bernhardt who lobbied for the energy industry, and EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler, who also lobbied for the energy industry.
There’s also HHS Secretary Alex Azar who helped oversee the lobbying efforts for a giant pharmaceutical company. [Update: I’d initially forgotten about Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia, another former lobbyist.]
And that’s just at the cabinet level. As we discussed a while back, much of the White House and federal agencies have been populated with former lobbyists. ProPublica reported last week on the “staggering” number of lobbyists who’ve worked in the Trump administration.
This isn’t exactly what voters were told to expect when Candidate Trump was seeking the presidency. On the contrary, the Republican spent months telling voters how tired he was of everyone in D.C. “being controlled by the special interests and the lobbyists.” At one point, he went so far as to say he’d have “no problem” banning lobbyists from his administration altogether.
In 2016, Trump even unveiled a fairly specific blueprint for “ending government corruption,” which included a series of provisions pertaining to limiting the influence of lobbyists.
I have some bad news for voters who took the rhetoric seriously.