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Propublica lifts the veil on unreported Trump appointees

ProPublica report [note – the site launched a terrific redesign that helps to highlight the strength of their investigative reporting] “President Donald Trump has left hundreds of government jobs unfilled that require a vote by the Senate. Yet his administration has installed more than 1,000 people through political appointments at every major federal agency, handing over control of the government’s day-to-day operations to industry insiders and loyalists to an unprecedented degree. Among the latest Trump administration appointees is a lobbyist who until March worked for a leading hepatitis C drugmaker that priced its treatment at $1,000 a pill and is now leading a White House working group setting drug pricing policies. The list includes the new head of the government’s offshore oil drilling safety and enforcement agency, who previously sat on the board of Sunoco Logistics and who told an industry conference earlier this month that deepwater drilling should ramp up. Then there’s the Hollywood actor who has called global warming and climate change a “leftist political tool” and “not sound science” on Twitter and who is now the communications director at the Department of Health and Human Services. Finally, this group also includes the 80-year-old retired chief legal officer of Morgan Stanley, who once told government lawyers he was “going to kick your ass” and is now a deputy attorney general in the Justice Department’s antitrust division, overseeing litigation while his boss awaits Senate confirmation. (At the time, Kempf denied using the expletive in exactly those terms.) These political appointees, some of them members of what have been dubbed “beachhead teams” during the presidential transition, and others who are now permanent employees, don’t need Senate confirmation. Many of them have operated in the shadows and the White House has declined to publicly reveal their identities. Some political appointees, such as Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross’s chief of staff, Wendy Teramoto, were initially hired as special government employees, or SGEs. They are brought on as temporary advisers and don’t face the same rules that other federal employees do. But Teramoto and others have stuck around, and been promoted to permanent jobs. The administration reveals virtually nothing about this category of staffers.

“As long as you know who to call, they are more than willing to work with ‘industry,’” said Scott Mason, a Trump campaign veteran who’s now a lobbyist with Holland & Knight. “The swamp continues as the ecosystem it has always been, advocating on behalf of Americans who are all represented in one way or another by an interest group.”

  • We now have a full list from the Office of Personnel Management, the federal government’s human resources department, and it counts more than 1,000 political appointments since Trump took office on Jan. 20. The 1,000 include some 400 that ProPublica first revealed in March, and another 140 that were added in subsequent updates. We found that of the roughly 500 new appointees on our list, at least 61 have been registered lobbyists at the federal level. (This is likely an undercount since it does not include those who have not registered or who worked solely on the state level.)
  • We’re still sorting through the new names and we want your help. Here’s our database of 1,000 political appointees. If you have tips or want to flag someone for us, email [email protected].”

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