President Trump has made a big deal about not hiring lobbyists since he became President (although he has) and signed an executive order banning White House employees from ever performing as lobbyists for foreign governments.
Key people in the Trump campaign were supposed to have made similar commitments.
That hasn’t stopped Trump’s controversial former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski from setting up shop in Washington as a lobbyist who is now actively seeking to represent foreign governments, according to Politico.
Lewandowski, in partnership with Barry Bennett, has hired a number of other former Trump campaign employees and members of his administration.
Lewandowski remained in touch with Trump after he was forced out of the campaign in June 2016, and was Trump’s cheerleader for a time on CNN. He was considered for a post in the new administration but was denied the post of senior advisors, and instead opened his lobbying firm.
In an interview with Politico when Lewandowski’s Avenue Strategies opened for business just before last Christmas, he said: “A lot of people have reached out to us, corporate clients, trade associations, individuals — we’re not going to limit ourselves…I think we’ll be providing strategic counsel most, explaining the White House to people. There are a tremendous number of people in Washington who don’t know how the president-elect works.”
Bennett said, “We’re not here to compete with guys who are lobbying Capitol Hill. We’re here to lobby the administration.”
He also said last December that while Avenue would work for any cause compatible with Trump’s agenda, it would not work for foreign governments.”
That didn’t last long. Now Avenue is actively seeking to work for foreign governments both to help them understand and reach Trump and his team, and also to help guide them at home with their own elections using the experience they picked up getting Trump elected.
Among those Avenue has hired is Jason Osborne, who was a senior advisor on the Trump campaign. Osborne confirmed to Politico that among those they have pitched as clients are officials from Albania and Kosovo, as well as countries in Africa, Asia, Europe and Latin America.
“We’re open to doing quite a number of things for foreign governments,” said Osborne. “A lot of our focus right now has been on how we can help them in their own countries.”
Avenue has set up for business a few blocks from the White House at 1717 Pennsylvania Avenue NW.
“We’ve met with a bunch of people,” Bennett said, . “It’s a big market, that’s for sure.”
Lewandowski is not the only one who has gone from Trump to K Street (which is synonymous with lobbying in D.C. since many have offices on that street).
One of the most aggressive has been the low profile lobbying firm SPG, which has hired three former Trump staffers, including Stuart Jolly, the Trump campaign’s former national field director.
Jolly told Politico that he doesn’t sell just influence, but also insights into how Trump and his administration work, and what they want.
“I am not abusing my relationships at all,” insisted Jolly. “I love the guys that I brought on the campaign and worked with, and I want to support them as friends.”
Still, there is no doubt what they are selling is their Trump connection.
One of the first clients among more than a dozen firms SPG has pitched in New Zealand. In an interview with Politico, New Zealand’s ambassador to the U.S. said they pay $25,000 a month as a retainer.
“Through their networking with the Trump people,” Groser says, “they’ve been able to help us get in front of the queue.”
SPG helped recruit guests for an inauguration party at the New Zealand embassy. The guests who attended included White House counselor Steve Bannon, former Trump deputy campaign manager Michael Glassner, a couple Republican Senators and actor Jon Voight, known as one of the few Hollywood conservatives.
“They’re deeply and closely associated with the Trump election campaign,” Groser says. “We’ve been able to work extremely productively with them.”
So not only didn’t Trump drain the swamp as he promised, he has hired billionaires, Wall Street veterans and Republican cronies for his administration. He has also helped create a new part of the swamp on K Street. It is not a surprise that Trump’s pals and former cronies are now lobbying him and his administration, but it is a far cry from the President’s promises to create a different kind of regime that
He has also helped create a new part of the swamp on K Street. It is not a surprise that Trump’s pals and former cronies are now lobbying him and his administration, but it is a far cry from the President’s promises to create a different kind of regime that
It is not a surprise that Trump’s pals and former cronies are now lobbying him and his administration, but it is a far cry from the President’s promises to create a different kind of regime that doesn’t answer to the old bosses or live for jobs in the future with foreign governments.
Instead, the swamp is now swimming with former Trump followers who have followed him to the White House.