Friday, August 18, 2017

There's Never Been A More Fetid Swamp In Washington Like The One Trump Has Set Out To Create


NPR's Fresh Air has a fascinating piece on Wednesday that sought to shone some light on how the Trump Regime is accomplishing quite a bit while everyone is paying attention to the clown tripping all over himself in the center ring. The guest was NY Times journalist Eric Lipton and he's been reporting on how the Trump Regime has brought in lobbyists to help destroy the regulations that have protected the public from the very industries that those lobbyists were working for-- and no doubt will again. The whole show in worth listening to and it's embedded above.

Lipton began by explaining how the Trumpists quickly changed the rules governing lobbyists in government. "[T]he Obama administration explicitly banned lobbyists from going to work in agencies that they had in the prior two years lobbied. And Trump removed that explicit restriction and has allowed quite a number of lobbyists to come into agencies to regulate the same sectors that they just a few months ago had been trying to influence... Trump eliminated the prohibition on lobbyists coming in, but he kept the two-year ban in participating in the same matter. And so then the question becomes, well, how are they enforcing this two-year ban because there are now dozens of lobbyists and lawyers who represented private industry who have been placed into the Trump administration in the same sectors that they had worked in for the private industries. But the question is, you know, how are we looking and knowing whether or not they are then working on essentially their former clients to-do lists but now with the power of the government agency that they're running?

"During the Obama administration, there was an agreement that anytime anyone was given a waiver, that waiver would be either posted on the White House website or shared with the Office of Government Ethics and made public. So we as reporters could look and see, well, this, you know, man or woman is working in the same area that they had previously been paid to represent. But we would know the conditions upon which they could do that and why they had been granted such a waiver. Then when the Trump administration started, they initially were refusing to make those waivers public despite the fact that we were asking for them. And it became the subject of a pretty intense fight. And ultimately, they made some of them public, but they don't continue to post them.

"...One of the more prominent ones is Michael Catanzaro, who was a lobbyist for Devon Energy and also for an electric utility that operates some of the largest coal-burning power plants in the United States. And so he was lobbying on things like trying to block a rule that the EPA had passed that was going to limit methane emissions from oil and gas drilling sites across the United States. Methane is many times more potent as a climate change component than CO2. And methane also-- when you release methane, you're often also releasing volatile organic chemicals, which are... you know, can be carcinogens and cause other health consequences. So the EPA was trying to regulate methane emissions. And Michael Catanzaro was working for Devon Energy to try to kill that rule. So he then goes into the White House. And he also had previously been representing the largest-- one of the largest coal-burning utilities in the United States. And he had been fighting the Clean Power Plan, which was trying to force coal-burning power plants to reduce their CO2 emissions. And so once he gets to the White House, among the things that he does is he helps write an executive order that essentially instructs the federal agencies to terminate the Clean Power Plan and the methane rule. And so he is essentially continuing the work that he'd been doing on behalf of his private-sector clients. But he's now doing it as one of the most powerful, you know, policy people in the United States. And so you wonder, how is that possible? So we were aware of Michael Catanzaro's shift. And I then went and interviewed a number of industry lobbyists who were lobbying the White House to try to get those rules repealed because they hated it. And now all of a sudden, they've got their former, you know, colleague and, you know, compatriot who is essentially helping run the show. And I said, have you talked to Michael Catanzaro since he went into the White House? And they said, yes. And I said, how is this possible? I thought there was this two-year ban on participating in a particular matter that you had represented a client on. And so we-- and then I asked the White House, well, can I see his waiver because he must have been granted a waiver. And they would not give it to me.

"After I wrote that story, the Office of Government Ethics said, you know what? This is an impossible situation. How can we have an ethics program if there - if we can't see the waivers? So the head of the Office of Government Ethics did what he called a data request, and he made a request of every federal agency. And he asked every federal agency for copies of any waivers that had been issued through April. And as a result of that request-- and there was a bit of a fight where initially the White House indicated that it may not comply with the request. But ultimately the White House complied. And there you go. On the day of the deadline, they-- the White House issues a list of waivers that had been issued, and there's Michael Catanzaro. And he was in fact-- had been granted a waiver to participate in the same matters that he had previously been paid to represent.

..."There's a guy at the Department of Transportation Security Administration. And in this case, I don't know the extent to which he has participated in the same manner. But he was working for a company that was trying to sell the Transportation Security Administration new equipment that would do security screenings. And that company had just gotten its agreement from TSA, the airport screening agency, to do kind of actual testing in its laboratory to see whether or not this equipment was worth buying and spending, you know, potentially tens, if not hundreds, of millions of dollars to install in airports in the United States. And then the same gentleman, Chad Wolf, then became the chief of staff at TSA, which would-- you know, as the chief of staff, you're involved in issues across the agency. And you know, if you're going to be making a major change in the way that you inspect carry-on baggage to look for explosives and then potentially commit to buying, you know, tens of millions or hundreds of millions of dollars in new equipment, you know, the chief of staff of the agency is going to be involved. So he is now the former lobbyist for the, you know-- explosive detection equipment is now the chief of staff overseeing, you know, various things at the Transportation Security Administration.

"There's a woman that is working in the Environmental Protection Agency who had worked for the chemical industry. And it was lobbying to try to limit the-- kind of the strength of a law intended to regulate toxic chemicals. Now she's at the EPA, helping establish the rules that will regulate the same chemicals and the same companies that she just previously had represented. And so I mean literally there are dozens of people who have made this shift from being the regulated to the regulators, and so-- at a pace that I have going back to George W. Bush and being in Washington and covering administrations that I have not seen before."

We asked two of the sharpest attorneys running for Congress this cycle, Dan Canon in Indiana and Sam Jammal in California. Dan's running for the 9th district seat held by a rubber stamp backbencher, Trey Hollingsworth. He told us that Trump's systemic dismantling of regulatory protections "is consistent not only with the unashamed corruption on display in this administration, but also the unchecked dismantling of the federal government we've seen over the last 7 months. The executive branch wants to make government into a private corporation, free from the fetters of ethical rules, public transparency, and the democratic process. And Congress isn't doing anything to hold these oligarchs accountable."

Sam Jammal, an Orange County candidate for a seat held by an entrenched top ally of Paul Ryan and the Trump Regime-- Ed Royce-- is concerned with the way the Trump Regime is perverting the role of the federal government on behalf of powerful special interests. "We need a government that works for us," he told us, "not one filled with individuals looking to turn around and make a quick buck or so biased towards one powerful interest. Regulatory capture is one of the biggest problems we face in government that no one discusses. Its an even bigger problem now with Trump and his revolving door of special interests running our government. But this has been going on for a while. The result is that we have policy decisions focused solely on the interests of the most powerful incumbents, which hurts innovation, competition and ultimately the rest of us. Everyone-- regardless of political leanings-- should be concerned. I saw this firsthand as thousands of solar jobs were lost due to regulatory capture in state public utilities commissions.

"The best way to avoid regulatory capture and the revolving door are clear rules and oversight. First, we shouldn't make it so easy for special interest representatives-- it's not just lobbyists-- being in positions to influence policy on their former employers. There must be transparency and some waiver process in order to at least require a case be made for the hire. Additionally, there should be a longer ban on returning to lobby or participate in policy roles within the regulated industry. This will remove the profit motive to write policies to open doors for the next job. Lastly, we need congressional oversight. Congress stopped holding oversight hearings years ago, which leads to powerful interests shaping policy when there are bad actors like Trump, but also leaves our government vulnerable to only favoring the loudest voices and usual suspects since no one is paying attention."

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At 6:24 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Though the secrecy might be a bit more extreme, this is nothing new. And both "parties" partake.

Go back to Clinton who "hired" Bob Rubin to ratfuck everyone in the world through banking reform.
Cheney/bush also had an admin lousy with corporate lawyers and lobbyists making policy to ratfuck everyone not on a corporate board.
And obamanation hired a bigly number of goldman alumni as did Clinton and bush. He also hired immelt from GE to make sure labor stayed ratfucked and outsourcing was not impeded.
immelt went on to work for this guy too proving that both parties serve the exact same 'base'.

So, yeah, it's a fetid swamp. But it's been a fetid swamp for over 25 years.


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