Ex-Lobbyists and Koch Brothers Allies Will Run Trump’s Economic Team
Just a day before President Trump spoke to Congress and stated that his administration has “begun to drain the swamp of government corruption,” the White House announced new additions to the National Economic Council, which is packed with former corporate lobbyists and with allies of the Koch brothers. The council advises the president on foreign and domestic economic policy.
Council Chairman Gary Cohn said the new appointees would be part of a “best-in-class team,” but many observers were quick to point out conflicts of interest.
David Sirota of the International Business Times reports:
Cohn’s two deputies are Kenneth Juster (who was a partner and managing director at Warburg Pincus) and Jeremy Katz (a former managing director at GCM Grosvenor). Those firms are key members of a private equity industry with significant legislative interests in Congress. …
Cohn hired DJ Gribbin to oversee the president’s infrastructure policy. Trump has said that policy will be “financed through both public and private capital,” a form of financing that has helped private financial firms make big money from public projects. One such firm: Macquarie Capital — where, according to the White House press release, Gribbin worked leading “advisory teams structuring public-private partnership transactions for governmental clients.”
Sirota adds that policy advisers Grace Koh (telecommunications), Shahira Knight (retirement) and Michael Catanzaro (energy and environment) all have ties to corporate firms or lobbyist groups in their fields.
The list goes on: Zaid Jilani of The Intercept writes that George David Banks, whom Cohn appointed special assistant to the president for international energy and environment, was a registered lobbyist for three energy companies.
And Cohn himself reportedly unlocked $284 million when he joined the Trump administration. The arrangement has generated charges that Cohn will not be able to deal impartially with Goldman Sachs.
“We have begun to drain the swamp of government corruption by imposing a five-year ban on lobbying by executive branch officials and a lifetime ban on becoming lobbyists for a foreign government,” Trump said Tuesday night in addressing a joint session of the Congress.
His assertion was met with titters from some liberals in the audience. Listen for the reaction in the video below:
— Mashable News (@MashableNews) March 1, 2017
The appointments to the economic council match a pattern of corporate influence in the Trump administration. The president’s Cabinet picks, his advisers, his children and even Trump himself have faced charges of ethical conflicts or the potential for such conflicts.
Even conservative outlets friendly to the Trump administration have criticized some of his appointments—The Washington Times, one of the few outlets recently allowed into a Q&A with White House press secretary Sean Spicer, argued last month that “the president’s economics team is less than inspiring.”
Critical analysis of White House staffers is far from over—according to CNN, Trump has yet to fill 2,000 administration vacancies.
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