Under Trump, 'The swamp is alive and well in Washington, D.C.'

Trump's boasted, “We stared down the unholy alliance of lobbyists and ... special interests, who made a living bleeding our country dry." No, he hasn't.
Image: Donald Trump arrives to be sworn in as the 45th President of the United States in Washington on Jan. 20, 2017.
Donald Trump arrives to be sworn in as the 45th President of the United States in Washington on Jan. 20, 2017.Jim Lo Scalzo / EPA file
Get the Msnbc newsletter.
SUBSCRIBE
By Steve Benen

About a year ago, Donald Trump kicked off his re-election campaign in Orlando, and boasted 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.”

Given the contingent of former lobbyists in the president's cabinet, the Republican's campaign boast was absurd, even by Trump standards. But when it comes to lobbyists' influence in the White House, the connections run deep.

The New York Times reported today, for example, on lobbyist David Urban, who is apparently paid quite well by his clients, who benefit from Urban's connections inside the administration.

The chief executive of the arms maker Raytheon, under pressure to overcome a congressional hold on major sales in the fall of 2018, wanted to sit down with one of the few people who could solve the problem — Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. But the State Department would not schedule the meeting. So Raytheon turned for help to David Urban, perhaps the best-connected lobbyist in President Trump’s Washington.

It wasn't long before Pompeo's State Department "issued an emergency waiver that circumvented the congressional hold on the arms deals, allowing billions of dollars in Raytheon missiles and bombs to be sold to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates."

The headline on the article read, "Trump Vowed to ‘Drain the Swamp,’ but Lobbyists Are Still Thriving in It." The Times added that Urban's lobbying revenues "have nearly tripled in the Trump era -- rising to more than $25 million in the roughly 40 months after his swearing-in from less than $9 million in the roughly 40 months before Mr. Trump became president."

Urban is hardly alone: the NYT reported on several others who've had similar success, including some lobbyists who weren't even part of the lobbying industry before Trump took office.

Not surprisingly, they're now "seeking to protect that mutually beneficial relationship" by working to ensure the Republican wins a second term.

Evidently, they were unmoved by Trump's boast about "staring down the unholy alliance of lobbyists and donors and special interests, who made a living bleeding our country dry."

The reporting coincides with an Associated Press article on Trump-connected lobbyists reaping a "windfall" as part of the federal investments in response to the pandemic.

Forty lobbyists with ties to President Donald Trump helped clients secure more than $10 billion in federal coronavirus aid, among them five former administration officials whose work potentially violates Trump’s own ethics policy, according to a report. The lobbyists identified Monday by the watchdog group Public Citizen either worked in the Trump executive branch, served on his campaign, were part of the committee that raised money for inaugural festivities or were part of his presidential transition. Many are donors to Trump’s campaigns, and some are prolific fundraisers for his reelection.

The AP quoted Mike Tanglis, one of the authors of Public Citizen's report, saying, “The swamp is alive and well in Washington, D.C. These (lobbying) booms that these people are having, you can really attribute them to their connection to Trump.”

If you voted for Trump because you believed his rhetoric about taking on inside-the-Beltway special interests, I have some very bad news for you.