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Government Ethics

Zinke the latest to skirt ‘drain the swamp’ pledge

At least 33 people who have left the Trump administration have started lobbying – violating the spirit, if not always the letter, of the "drain the swamp" pledge Donald Trump touted when his presidency began. The terms of the pledge stated top officials could not to lobby their former agencies for five years after leaving the government, could not lobby the White House or any other political appointees until the Trump presidency ended, and could not even facilitate meetings or provide background to other lobbyists.

The roster was assembled by Pro Publica – just as Ryan Zinke, the former Interior secretary, gave the issue new prominence by signing up to work at Turnberry Solutions, a lobby shop started two years ago by Corey Lewandowski and several other former Trump advisors.

Pro Publica found at least 18 onetime Trump officials have registered as lobbyists, while the others work at lobbying or advocacy law firms. Almost all work on issues they oversaw or helped shape when they were in government. Nearly 2,600 officials signed the ethics pledge in 2017, according to the Office of Government Ethics; just 25 did not. In theory the consequences for violating the pledge are fines and a permanent ban from registering a lobbyist.

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Some former officials "are tiptoeing around the rules," the site reported, by saying they are doing consulting work that is not strictly the same as lobbying. Others say they got special waivers to get out of their pledges and some of the 33 were among those who did not sign initially. (The House Democrats' HR 1 aims to close some of the loopholes that have been around since before the Trump pledge.)

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