Lobbyists connected to Trump reaped windfall in COVID-19 boom
Washington, July 07: Forty lobbyists with ties to President Donald Trump helped clients secure more than 10 billion in federal coronavirus aid, among them five former administration officials whose work potentially violates Trump's own ethics policy, according to a report.
The lobbyists identified on Monday by the watchdog group Public Citizen either worked in the Trump executive branch, served on his campaign, were part of the committee that raised money for inaugural festivities or were part of his presidential transition. Many are donors to Trump's campaigns, and some are prolific fundraisers for his re-election.
They include Brian Ballard, who served on the transition, is the finance chair for the Republican National Committee and has bundled more than 1 million for Trump's fundraising committees.
He was hired in March by Laundrylux, a supplier of commercial laundry machines, after the Department of Homeland Security issued guidance that didn't include laundromats as essential businesses that could stay open during the lockdown.
A week later, the administration issued new guidance adding laundromats to the list.
Dave Urban, a Trump adviser and confidant, has collected more than 2.3 million in lobbying fees this year.
The firm he leads, American Continental Group, represents 15 companies, including Walgreens and the parent company of the Ultimate Fighting Championship, on coronavirus issues.
Trump pledged to clamp down on Washington's influence peddling with a drain the swamp campaign mantra.
But during his administration, the lobbying industry has flourished, a trend that intensified once Congress passed more than 3.6 trillion in coronavirus stimulus.
While the money is intended as a lifeline to a nation whose economy has been upended by the pandemic, it also jump-started a familiar lobbying bonanza.
The swamp is alive and well in Washington, DC, said Mike Tanglis, one of the report's authors.
These (lobbying) booms that these people are having, you can really attribute them to their connection to Trump. The White House did not respond to a request for comment.
Shortly after Trump took office, he issued an executive order prohibiting former administration officials from lobbying the agency or office where they were formerly employed, for a period of five years.
Another section of the order forbids lobbying the administration by former political appointees for the remainder of Trump's time in office.
Yet five lobbyists who are former administration officials have potentially done just that during the coronavirus lobbying boom: Courtney Lawrence was a former deputy assistant secretary for legislation in the Department of Health and Human Services in 2017 and 2018.
She became a lobbyist for Cigna in 2018 and is listed as part of a team that has lobbied HHS, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and at least two other agencies. Cigna did not respond to a request for comment.