On Wednesday, the White House released its list of ethics waivers to a number of staff members whose connections in the private sector have called their ability to serve the public into question. The waivers conveniently smooth over objections to employees who may be supporting corporate interests.
The Associated Press reports that though Donald Trump promised to “drain the swamp,” he is actually throwing his administration’s gators chunks of tasty marinated meat. Is that metaphor over-extended? So is the Office of Government Ethics, who issued 14 ethics waivers, four of which cover former lobbyists. Of particular concern are Michael Catanzaro, who worked for oil and gas companies and is now free to weigh in on policy like the “Clean Power Plan, the WOTUS rule, and methane regulations,” and Shahira Knight, who worked for Fidelity and will now be participating in decisions on “retirement and financial service issues.”
White House counsel Don McGahn and Stefan Passantino, the chief ethics officer, vetted all of the waiver requests, and a White House spokesperson has said the number of waivers issued were “limited,” though some are blanket waivers that covers groups of employees. One states that all presidential appointees “may participate in communications and meetings with news organizations regarding broad policy matters.”
You know who that means. Steve Bannon can continue to breath heavily into the ear of any Breitbart staffer he wants. Kellyanne Conway is also covered, free to contact her past clients in advocacy groups, which, according to The Hill, include “Koch-backed group Freedom Partners, the National Rifle Association, the Right to Life Committee, Citizens United and the Tea Party Patriots, among others.”
The Daily Beast points out that the Executive Order including White House waivers is not unlike one imposed by President Barack Obama in 2009. Obama gave out 49 waivers over the course of his entire presidency, but each one came with detailed explanations of why such waivers were in the “public interest.” No such explanations from the Trump administration have been released.