News & Politics

Despite White House Chaos, Trump Delivers Favors for Corporate America

His base isn't the working class, it's big banks.

Photo Credit: Evan El-Amin / Shutterstock

The Trump administration may be dazed and confused about many things, but not about its corporate agenda.

From Scaramucci to Spicer, from Kelly to Kushner, one thing doesn’t change at Donald Trump’s chaotic White House: Its devotion to delivering for giant corporations at the public’s expense.

During the campaign, Trump directed nearly as much venom toward major U.S. corporations as toward his opponents. He savaged Wall Street, badgered companies for manufacturing products outside of the U.S. and threatened them with onerous penalties. Trump singled out lobbyists who do the bidding of corporations by promising to “drain the swamp.”

It was plain enough that Candidate Trump’s anti-industry shtick was bluster. But it wasn’t obvious that he would hand control of the government over to Corporate America. His billionaire cabinet is the most corporate in modern history and his sub-cabinet officials are worse.

Trump immediately backtracked on his promise to crack down on lobbyists, choosing to staff his administration with them. Three dozen lobbyists are working for the administration in apparent violation of Trump’s vaunted ethics executive order on conflicts of interest; an additional 100 lobbyists have posts in the administration.

Lobbyists are only a narrow category of the corporate representatives inside the administration. Others are former executives, consultants, corporate lawyers and hacks from corporate-backed think tanks.

Likewise, Trump turned to Goldman Sachs, Lockheed Martin, Boeing, OneWest Bank and numerous corporate law firms to fill key posts.

The same pattern appears in agency after agency.

At the Justice Department, the nominated head of the criminal division is a corporate criminal defense lawyer; the nominee to run the antitrust division has made a career working on merger approvals; the proposed top civil rights lawyer has defended corporations against employment discrimination claims; the nominee to run the environment division defended BP in the Gulf oil disaster case; and the proposed solicitor general has represented R.J. Reynolds.

At the U.S. Department of Education, where a for-profit college lawyer now works as a special assistant to Secretary Betsy DeVos, the Trump administration is working to roll back rules that aim to protect students from predatory private colleges and student lenders. (Public Citizen is suing to keep the rules in place.)

At the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt – who as Oklahoma attorney general allowed the fossil fuel industry to draft letters on attorney general letterhead on multiple occasions – persuaded Trump to pull out of the Paris climate agreement and won’t even acknowledge that humans are driving climate change. But that’s not all. A former chemical industry trade group official was picked to lead the office that regulates the chemical industry. Dow Chemical, a close Trump ally, has already been rewarded with an order overturning a proposed ban of a brain-damaging Dow pesticide. And a top coal industry lobbyist is expected to be picked for the agency’s second-highest job.

Trump installed a former financial industry lawyer as acting Comptroller of the Currency, a top bank regulatory job. That appointee has made the preposterous claim that banks’ financial health could be harmed by a rule that ensure consumers can file class-action lawsuits against financial firms, rather be forced into arbitration, where the deck is stacked against them.

One issue where Candidate Trump seemed to really believe in a progressive policy was drug prices. He promised to let the federal government negotiate prices on prescription drugs purchased through Medicare and accused the pharmaceutical industry of “getting away with murder.”

Well, that talk is long gone. In fact, leaked White House papers obtained by Public Citizenshow a draft presidential executive order purportedly on drug pricing that would reduce safety, help drug companies raise prices overseas and do virtually nothing to cut Americans’ drug prices. Perhaps it’s a complete coincidence, but a former lobbyist for giant drug company Gilead now works in the White House, where he heads a working group on drug pricing issues.

While Trump has yet to deliver on Corporate America’s dream for a massive tax cut, he is rushing forward on their other top priority: slashing health, safety, environmental, consumer and other regulatory protections. Last month, the White House budget office said the Trump administration has withdrawn or suspended 860 pending regulations.

Candidate Trump promised to fix a rigged economic and political system. President Trump, by contrast, swiftly turned control of government over to the very corporate elites he denounced during the campaign, revealing his presidency to be nothing more than a giant bait and switch scheme.


Robert Weissman is President of Public Citizen.
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