Every Voice


101 Ways Trump Has Failed to Drain the Swamp In His First 100 Days

April 25, 2017 | Adam Smith

Throughout the primary and general elections campaigns, President Donald Trump spoke to the public anger about the power of big donors and special interests in Washington. They believed that he would “drain the swamp,” as promised.  In his first 100 days, he has done the opposite. Here are 101 ways his administration has empowered big donors, given influence to lobbyists, violated ethics rules, and become the exact politician he promised to fight if elected.

What he said: “The choice in this election is a choice between taking our government back from the special interests, or surrendering our last scrap of independence to their total and complete control.” June 29, 2016

What he’s done: Filled his cabinet and administration with the big donors and ­others tied to special interests he promised to fight if elected.

1. Trump’s Education Secretary, billionaire Betsy DeVos, is a member of a major GOP donor family that gave $1.8 million to Trump and the party in the 2016 election.

2. Billionaire Wilbur Ross was chosen to be Commerce Secretary following more than $200,000 in donations he made to Trump’s election bid.

3. Secretary Ross still owns shares of a foreign shipping company that could be impacted by the trade negotiations Ross himself will now lead.

4. Trump’s initial pick for Labor Secretary, Andy Puzder, was forced to withdraw his nomination after several controversies. But first, he and his wife donated $332,2000 to Trump and his party in the 2016 election.

5. Trump’s choice to lead the Small Business Administration, billionaire Linda McMahon, donated $7.5 million to back his bid for the presidency after previously serving as one of the biggest donors to Trump’s controversial family foundation.

6. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue received $1 million in campaign contributions from agriculture interests during his career as a state senator and governor of Georgia. He’ll now oversee those same interests as Secretary of Agriculture.

7. Trump’s initial nominee for Deputy Secretary of Commerce Todd Ricketts, worth $5.3 billion, is a member of a family that donated $1.3 million to Trump’s campaign, his super PAC, and the Republican National Committee. He recently withdrew his nomination because disentangling his financial interests became too complicated.

8. Trump’s Treasury Secretary, millionaire Steve Mnuchin served as Trump’s finance chairman and donated $425,000 in the 2016 election to support Trump and the Republican National Committee.

9. Trump’s pick to lead the Securities and Exchange Commission, Jay Clayton, made millions of dollars off the financial institutions he’ll oversee in that position.

10. After calling his opponents during the election “puppets” of Wall Street, Trump appointed Gary Cohn, the former president of Goldman Sachs, to direct his National Economic Council.

11. He appointed James Donovan, a managing director at Goldman Sachs, as the Deputy Treasury Secretary.

12. Deputy National Security Adviser Dina Powell was a partner at Goldman Sachs and served as the president of the financial firm’s foundation.

13. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is the former CEO of ExxonMobil, a company with operations in 50 countries and one whose executives and PAC have given $6.8 million to federal candidates and committees in the past three election cycles, according to analysis of data from the Center for Responsive Politics.

14. EPA Chief Scott Pruitt has close ties to the oil and gas industry from his days as Oklahoma’s Attorney General. His office often acted as an arm of Devon Energy, a company whose executives donated to his campaign.

His top aides have repeatedly violated ethics rules while facing no punishment.

15. Trump’s son-in-law and senior advisor, Jared Kushner, lied on his application for a security clearance by omitting his meetings with Russian interests.

16. Counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway violated federal ethics rules by using her position to promote a commercial enterprise, specifically Ivanka Trump’s clothing line.

17. The White House refused to discipline Conway, even after an admonition from the Office of Government Ethics.

18. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin used his official position to promote his personal financial interests—being a producer on the Lego Batman movie.

19. The owner of the home Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump are renting in Washington, D.C., is a Chilean billionaire suing the U.S. government over mining leases.

20. Trump’s Director of Strategic Initiatives attended meetings with Trump and several corporate executives while holding stock in those same companies, a possible violation of federal ethics rules.

21. Trump’s top aides, his son-in-law, and his daughter all face a raft of ethics questions due to their investments. In fact, it will be difficult for them to work on Trump’s top issues like tax reform and trade without violating conflict of interest rules.

22. The trust Ivanka created, like her father’s, does nothing to remove potential conflicts of interest. As ethics expert Norm Eisen says, “There’s no enforcement. If this is voluntary, what if she voluntarily decides not to do it?”

23. The day Ivanka had dinner with the Chinese president, the country approved trademarks for her products there.

24. The administration canceled its ethics training class.

25. On the same day that Trump’s Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, then a Congressman, bought stock in six pharmaceutical companies, he “arranged to call a top U.S. health official, seeking to scuttle a controversial rule that could have hurt the firms’ profits and driven down their share prices.”

What he said: “These are lobbyists. These are people that don’t necessarily love our country. They don’t have the best interests of our country at heart.” February 8, 2016.

What he’s done: Trump promised to reduce the power of lobbyists, but has placed many in key positions overseeing policy that impacts their previous industries.

26. Donald Trump’s executive order on lobbying is weaker than President Obama’s, specifically easing restrictions for lobbyists to be appointed to work for federal agencies they recently lobbied.

27. The waivers for lobbyists to work for the agencies they previously lobbied are being granted in secret, without transparency, by political staff instead of career ethics officers.

28. Trump’s former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn didn’t sign the ethics pledge, meaning he can start lobbying whenever he wants.

29. While attending intelligence briefings with Trump during the campaign,  Flynn was receiving payments from the Turkish government.

30. Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, had to retroactively register as a foreign agent with the State Department over his lobbying work, which is basically an admission he was violating the law.

31. Manafort is reportedly lobbying for a Chinese billionaire who hopes to get contracts from any new infrastructure plan.

32. State Department Aide Robert Wasinger didn’t sign the ethics pledge before resigning his job and has already started lobbying for corporate interests.

33. The first White House staffer to leave the administration after signing the ethics pledge, Marcus Peacock, was granted a waiver so he can begin lobbying the administration.

34. Trump’s special adviser on regulatory reform, Carl Icahn, has been advocating a change to the renewable fuels standard that would personally benefit him and the two refineries he owns.

35. Ahead of Icahn’s push for this standard, his refining company made a “massive bet” that prices would fall.

36. Trump promised he would ask Congress to pass a five-year ban on lobbying by former members of Congress and their staffs. He has not followed through on the promise.

37. Trump said he would ask Congress to pass legislation to prevent registered foreign lobbyists from raising money in our elections. He has not done this.

38. Trump’s former campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, immediately opened a Washington, D.C., lobbying firm to profit off his ties to Trump and his administration. Lewandowski has even been granted an Oval Office meeting with the president (and possibly access to his Twitter account).

39. Trump appointed the lobbyist for a construction industry trade group to a top job at the Labor Department overseeing issues he worked on as a lobbyist.

40.  A lobbyist for for-profit colleges was given a job at the Department of Education overseeing regulations on for-profit colleges. That same lobbyist later left his position days before the department announced the reversal of an Obama-era directive that would benefit that lobbyist’s father.

41. Despite repeatedly criticizing lobbyists while on the campaign trail, Trump accepted donations from at least a dozen lobbyists for his transition committee.

42. Alexandra Campau, a lobbyist whose firm’s clients include health insurance giant Blue Cross Blue Shield, was at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

43. Timothy Clark, a former consultant for the pharmaceutical industry trade group, is a senior adviser to HHS Secretary Tom Price.

44. Keagan Lenihan, another senior advisor to Price, was the head lobbyist for a firm that works with independent health providers.

45. Mike Cantanzaro, a top energy advisor for the White House, previously lobbied for energy companies. In fact, he lobbied against the same rule that he’s now working to dismantle.

46. Lance Leggit, Price’s chief of staff, lobbied on behalf of 10 healthcare-related clients in 2016.

47. Justin Mikolay, an appointee at the Department of Defense, was a former lobbyist for Palantir, a defense contractor founded by Trump friend and key transition advisor, billionaire Peter Thiel.

48. Chad Wolf, another lobbyist for defense and homeland security contractors, was hired as an advisor to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA).

49. John Barsa, an aerospace industry lobbyist, was hired at the Department of Homeland Security.

50. The administration chose a big oil lobbyist, Drew Maloney, to serve as a liaison between Congress and the Treasury Department.

51. Mark Maddox, now at the Department of Energy, previously lobbied for energy industry clients.

52. An executive at the chemical industry trade association was chosen to lead a section of the EPA that oversees the chemical industry.

53. A trade advisor for the White House was previously a lobbyist on trade issues and his agenda “mirrors one he has pursued for years as a paid lobbyist for the steel industry.”

What he said: “I will be leaving my great business in total.” Dec 7, 2016.

What he did: Instead of addressing the conflicts of interest and constitutional violations he faces, Trump has proudly used his presidency for profit.

54. Instead of following decades of precedent and the advice of ethics experts from across the political spectrum, Trump refused to divest from his companies and maintains an ownership stake in them, putting a cloud over every decision his administration makes.

55. Trump’s failure to divest could also lead to violations of the emoluments clause of the Constitution that was put in place to prevent bribery and corruption.

56. Trump signed an executive order rescinding a clean water regulation, which will benefit his golf courses. The trade association that lobbied against the regulation “includes more than 20 Trump employees.” In his first press conference with a foreign leader, British Prime Minister Theresa May, Trump name-checked his Scottish resort Turnberry.

57. At the solemn National Prayer Breakfast event, Trump asked attendees to pray for the ratings of Celebrity Apprentice, a show he owns a stake in.

58. The Trump Organization has violated the “no new foreign deals” pledge Donald Trump promised by restarting negotiations over a hotel in the Dominican Republic.

59. While initially promising that Trump would institute a wall between his business and his administration to prevent conflicts of interest, Trump’s son Eric admitted that he plans to give “quarterly” reports to his dad about the Trump Organization.

60. China’s approval of Trump trademarks just days after he reaffirmed U.S. support for the “One China” policy could be in violation of the foreign bribery clause of the constitution.

61. At least two of Trump’s foreign business partners attended his inauguration and took pictures with the Trump family.

62. Trump’s continued ownership of his companies also raises conflicts questions at the local level, “since the federal government is a key source of funding and other benefits for municipalities and counties.”

63. The candy industry is hosting events at Trump properties while lobbying the administration on issues like GMO labeling.

64. Trump has given his properties invaluable free advertising by visiting at least one of them all but two weeks he has been president.

65. While the GSA oddly approved Trump’s continued ownership of his Washington, D.C., hotel, there are still many questions about the conflicts that will arise from trade groups and foreign governments holding events there to build influence with the president.

66. Trump said he would donate the profits from foreign governments staying at his Washington, D.C., hotel to the U.S. treasury. He has not done this yet.

67. The co-owner of Trump’s Las Vegas hotel said, “I don’t know anything about that,” when asked whether foreign profits were being separated out.

68. Following the sale of a condo to a woman with ties to Chinese intelligence services, the Trump Organization refused to offer any details on its process for vetting possible conflicts of interest.

69. A dues-paying member of Mar-a-Lago was able to secure a private meeting with Trump in the Oval Office so his friend could advocate a policy position.

70. His re-election campaign spent over $500,000 on Trump properties and brands in the first three months of 2017.

71. Trump’s immoral and unconstitutional Muslim ban omitted Muslim-majority countries in which he holds investments, raising questions as to whether that played a role in the policy’s development.

72. The Kuwaiti embassy’s decision to hold an event at Trump’s hotel could be a violation of the foreign bribery clause of the constitution.

73. In a lawsuit filed against a news organization, an attorney for Trump’s wife Melania argued that defamation by the news outlet would prevent her from cashing in on the presidency. After a public outcry, the lawsuit was later updated to remove that section.

74. Trump is $300 million in debt to a German bank that has had run-ins with American regulators.

75. Attorney General Jeff Sessions visited Mar-a-Lago one weekend and was paraded around to guests at the resort, where membership costs $200,000 a year.

What he said: “And frankly, I know the system better than anybody else and I’m the only one up here that’s going to be able to fix that system because that system is wrong.” March 11, 2016.

What he’s done: Immediately became the exact politician he fought against—conducting government business in secret, selling access to big donors, and giving corporate special interests whatever they want.

76. The Trump administration will not voluntarily release records of who visits the White House. This will allow big donors and lobbyists to influence the decision-making process in total secrecy.

77. For his White House Counsel, Trump hired Don McGahn, an attorney famous for his history of attacking campaign finance laws and wrecking the agency in charge of enforcing them.

78. Trump said he’d fight the power of big money in Washington, but his Supreme Court appointment—Justice Neil Gorsuch—believes corporations are people and would give big donors more influence in our political system.

79. Trump encouraged his Twitter followers to shop at L.L. Bean, a company partially owned by a donor to his super PAC.

80. After promising Preet Bharara that his job as U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York was safe following his election, Trump fired him without offering any explanation. Bharara, most known for his public corruption convictions, would have had wide jurisdictional discretion over cases involving the Trump Organization.

81. Major Trump donors Bob and Rebekah Mercer and other aides close to Trump started an outside group to boost his presidency. It will not disclose its donors.

82. Starting at $25,000, major donors to Trump’s inauguration committee received plenty of benefits and access to the president and vice president. “Experts who reviewed Trump’s underwriter benefits said that the high-dollar requests and the specific amount of access those donations would provide are unusual.”

83. Private prison companies donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to both Trump’s super PAC and his inauguration. Not long after, Trump’s Department of Justice rescinded an Obama-era rule to phase out private prisons from federal use, which “lends the appearance of rewarding campaign donors,” Sens. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.) wrote in a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions. The Trump administration rewarded GEO Group, a private prison company that donated $225,000 to his super PAC and $250,000 to his inauguration, a contract to open a new federal detention center to hold immigrants.

84. After saying Sen. Marco Rubio would be a “puppet” of major GOP donor Sheldon Adelson, Trump had dinner with Adelson at the White House after the billionaire gave $5 million to Trump’s inauguration, “the largest single contribution given to any president’s inaugural committee.”

85. One of the first calls White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer made after his offensive comments about the Holocaust during a press briefing was to apologize to Adelson, the top donor to Republican candidates and committees.

86. Adelson was one Trump’s many donors to get prime seating at inauguration after donating $5 million to the Inaugural Committee. Others included Steve Wynn, Carl Icahn, Harold Hamm, Lew Eisenberg, Woody Johnson, and Phil Ruffin.

87. Trump accepted at least $10 million in funds for his inauguration from coal, oil, and gas companies—“the chief beneficiaries” of his initial executive orders weakening federal rules on air and water pollution.

88. Verizon, Comcast, and AT&T donated a combined $2 million to his inauguration before Trump appointed an Federal Communications Commission chair opposed to “net neutrality” rules those companies hate and signed legislation allowing them to sell consumers’ browsing history.

89. Trump changed his views on the Ex-Im Bank after the CEO of Boeing told him to and nominated an executive at the company as the Deputy Secretary of Defense after Boeing gave $1 million to Trump’s inauguration.

90. A $2,700 donor to Trump’s campaign got a selfie with Vice President Pence at Mar-a-Lago.

91. Trump spent his inauguration hobnobbing with major campaign donors, including  “a candlelight donor dinner at Union Station.”

92. Trump held a meeting in the Oval Office with Paul Singer, a billionaire hedge fund manager and one of the party’s top donors. During the election, Singer had funded efforts to stop his election, but then gave $1 million to his inauguration. They discussed economic policy, according to a person briefed on the conversation.

93. Wall Street billionaire Hank Greenberg, who also funded anti-Trump efforts, had a meeting with Trump at Trump Tower in December and has been invited for a meeting at the White House.

94. Billionaire GOP donor Steven Schwarzman who has a “newfound status as a trusted outside adviser” to Trump, donated $250,000 in December to his inauguration.

95. In December, the company of NFL team owner Robert Kraft donated $1 million to Trump’s inauguration. In March, he got a free trip with the president on Air Force One.

96. Trump had a private chat with David and Bill Koch at Mar-a-Lago. During the presidential campaign, Trump said, “I think the American public will be happy to know that the Koch brothers will not have influence over a Trump administration or the lives of the American people.”

97. Trump senior advisor Steve Bannon was considering quitting his job at the White House, but was convinced to stay by Rebekah Mercer, the daughter of one of Trump’s top donors. Without Bannon in the White House, the family’s “access and influence shrinks dramatically.” Rebekah was also a top aide on Trump’s transition committee.

98. Trump rewarded long-time members of Mar-a-Lago, and donors to his super PAC, with access to a foreign leader, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

99. “I’m going to entertain you,” Trump told a room of hundreds of the Republican party’s biggest donors in March as he pleaded with them for money to help him and the party. During the election, Trump repeatedly told voters things like, “I’m self-funding my campaign. Nobody is going to be taking care of me. I don’t want anybody’s money.”

100. Two hours after a meeting with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, the former CEO of Exxon, Trump released a statement praising the company on an investment program, often copying the company’s press release word for word. The company donated $500,000 to Trump’s inauguration.

101. Trump is “overwhelmed” by all the requests from donors and friends to whom he promised ambassadorships. The list includes a couple of billionaires.

Adam Smith

Adam Smith is Every Voice's communications director.