Meet the true Trump loyalists: Influence peddlers practicing the dark art of bending government power

Meet the true Trump loyalists: Influence peddlers practicing the dark art of bending government power
President Donald J. Trump walks from the Oval Office to the South Lawn of the White House Monday, May 20, 2019, prior to boarding Marine One to begin his trip to Pennsylvania. (Official White House Photo by Joyce N. Boghosian)

The Donald is in a funk. He's been outsmarted by an inert virus. His poll numbers are tanking, and even his demagogic pep rallies are falling flat.


So, who to turn to for political comfort? Why, of course, Trump's true loyalists: his diehard cadre of Washington's corporate lobbyists. I don't merely mean those elites of K-Street and Wall Street who dominate his Cabinet, constituting the official Trump government of, by, and for corporate greed. He also has a "kitchen cabinet." Operating out of public view, it's an unofficial collection of highly paid influence peddlers who're still practicing the dark art of bending government power to the wishes of selfish corporate interests. Each of them is paid hundreds of thousands of dollars a year by brand-name clients -- from Amazon to Walgreens -- to get favors from Trump. In turn, these little-known lobbyists have now adopted The Donald as their chief client, funneling millions of special-interest dollars into his reelection campaign with the understanding that he'll keep channeling tax breaks, regulatory exemptions and public dollars to the corporate donors. It's the Washington money-go-round, merrily corrupting our government.

Who are these no-name corrupters? David Urban is one, considered the best-connected corporate huckster in the Trump swamp. He's an old college pal of both Pentagon chief Mark Esper and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Moreover, he's become such a close buddy of Donald himself that he's known as a "Trump Whisperer," able to work around the furies that rage in that strange orange head.

Such cozy ties to the top mean Urban gets his calls returned, an invaluable asset for his favor-seeking clientele, including Raytheon, Goldman Sachs, Bayer, Nike and Toyota. They, in turn, have made Urban rich, paying the once-obscure lobbyist more than $25 million since the Trumpeteers took office. And why wouldn't they? For example, in 2019 the giant weapons maker Raytheon wanted to sell several billion dollars' worth of missiles to Saudi Arabia's royal rulers, but there was a congressional ban on such sales. No problem: (1) Raytheon enlisted Urban as their fixer; (2) he asked his pal Pompeo to meet with Raytheon's CEO; and (3) voila! -- the arms dealer promptly got a state department waiver to make the sale.

So, Washington lobbyists like Urban are now the top strategists and fundraisers for Trump 2020, hoping to get another four-year ride on the corrupt money-go-round.

During today's COVID-19 crisis, the PR departments of every brand-name corporation are running slick ads nobly proclaiming: "We're all in this together!"

Simultaneously, the corporate lobbying departments are ignobly using the public's focus on the health crisis as cover for selfishly grabbing government favors for the corporation -- everyone else be damned. And Trump's totally corporate White House has been their corrupt cohort, serving as a front-end loader for everything from more corporate tax giveaways to jiggered labor rules that stiff workers.

One of the grabbiest special interests are well-off corporate and parochial private schools, where students from some of America's wealthiest families get their education. For years, the nonpublic entities have been lobbying relentlessly to make taxpayers finance their schools, even though the schools are not open to all and usually have a narrow ideological or religious curriculum -- including some extremist courses teaching that public schools should be eliminated.

That extremist nook is where Betsy DeVos resides. She's a multibillionaire heiress and long-time funder of far-right causes. Chosen by Trump to run America's education department, she's been trying -- by hook or crook -- to run our schools straight into private hands... but with no success. Along came the COVID-19 federal relief package, including funds to help meet the education needs of low-income students in hard-hit public schools.

Hallelujah! shouted DeVos, grabbing the coronavirus as a way to advance her ideological agenda. In May, she issued an edict from on high requiring local public school districts to divert millions of the relief dollars from their disadvantaged students, forcing them to share their allotment with even the richest private schools. Astonishingly, Trump's haughty education secretary rationalized her directive as a matter of economic fairness, piously informing locals that they must not "discriminate" against the rich.

DeVos' "share-with-the-rich" dictum can be a bit imbalanced. Officials in New Orleans, for example, note that under her formula, 77% of its allotment would end up in private hands. Luckily, her "order" does not have the force of law, and public schools are fighting back. For information and action, go to the National Coalition for Public Education: NCPEcoalition.org.

To find out more about Jim Hightower, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators webpage at www.creators.com. COPYRIGHT 2020 CREATORS.COM

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