When our current president promised to clean up the federal government, or the “swamp,” I was delighted. I was especially happy the tradition of paid lobbyists influencing policy would disappear. I felt that one of the unfair advantages of corporate or private money was having a lobbyist influencing the policy-making process. I would imagine that if our forefathers were here today, they, too, would be happy.
Historically, during the time of King George III, there were two rooms where the king conducted business: The inner chamber where the king sat on his throne and the outer chamber or lobby (yes that is where the name came from), where there was a bevy of petitioners waiting to see the king and ask for favors. Our forefathers were trying to eliminate all aspects of monarchy and thus did not include petitioners as part of the legislative and governance processes.
When the president announced on Jan. 28, that he would put anti-lobbying requirements in place for any executive branch appointee and restricted them from engaging in lobbying for five years after leaving the executive branch, it was a great first step in cleaning up the swamp. Additionally, he said later, that he would not hire lobbyists to his administration. Next, I was sure he would attack the corruption that seemingly came up in every administration since Washington.
Well, as we approach the end of the first 100 days, we are seeing that rather than eliminate this form of petitioning, these same lobbyists and corporate lawyers are now part of the inner chamber! Let’s look at the facts (from ProPublica):
• Of the most recent hires’ financial disclosures for some 88 new appointments spread across agencies have identified some 300 companies that these same lobbyist and corporate lawyers were employed by.
• Many of these companies were amid discussions with legislatures and agencies and today are sitting in those agencies as decision makers, with secret waivers allowing them to continue their work, but from the other side.
• These new appointees are now part of the vanguard to roll back regulations and in the process, allow some former clients to profit.
This same approach is now being used to fill many open positions across agencies and advisory positions. The president has issued 20 executive orders to date. I challenge you to see how many of these are being executed by these same individuals.
Bottom line, the swamp has not been cleaned. In fact, it has become far worse, deeper and smellier. As for our forefathers, I am sure they are holding their noses and wondering how all the checks and balances that they put in place (public waivers, recusal) are daily being flouted.