WASHINGTON – 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 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 reelection.
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, D.C.,” 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.