Propublica: The Swamps Has Never Had More Money-Eating Sharks, Feasting off Our Dollars

scarybiscuits7 / Flickr Donald Trump you re fired US...
scarybiscuits7 / Flickr

Trump said he would “drain the swamp,” when in fact he has run out the professionals that generally utilize government career positions within the normal habitat, some of whom dedicated their lives to public service. Trump replaced a disconcerting number of professional government workers with people possessing “special waivers” to work inside the very same departments they formerly lobbied against, freeing them to implement a “wish-list” of policies that do nothing but enrich all the “right people.” As if the situation was not bad enough, the Trump administration has allowed an unprecedented number of people listed as special government employees, those allowed to work within the government, while also drawing paychecks (still) from the private companies that do business with that very same department! Such people don’t so much double dip, as they take a daily spin of the positive feedback loop, guaranteed to enrich even the most hapless well-placed individual.

As taken from the report itself:

Here’s what we found: At least 187 Trump political appointees have been federal lobbyists, and despite President Trump’s campaign pledge to “drain the swamp,” many are now overseeing the industries they once lobbied on behalf of. We’ve also discovered ethics waivers that allow Trump staffers to work on subjects in which they have financial conflicts of interest. In addition, at least 254 appointees affiliated with Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and at least 125 staffers from prominent conservative think tanks are now working in the federal government, many of whom are on teams to repeal Obama-era regulations.

As bad and shocking as that fact may be, brace yourself, because one thing of which we are all sure, with Trump, it can always get worse, and here it does:

Drilling down even further, at least 35 Trump political appointees worked for or consulted with groups affiliated with the the billionaire libertarian brothers Charles and David Koch, who also have a network of advocacy groups, nonprofits, private companies and political action committees. At least 25 Trump appointees came from the influential Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank founded in 1973, and at least two came from Heritage Action, its related political nonprofit. Heritage says the Trump administration, in just its first year, has enacted nearly two-thirds of its 334 policy recommendations. We also found — for the first time — dozens of special-government employees, or SGEs, who work as paid consultants or experts for federal agencies while keeping their day jobs in the private sector.

Do I need even expound upon the shocking offensiveness of the situation?

Working in the government has traditionally been termed “public service” because the entire idea is that the average professional puts the public good, or at least the law, ahead of one’s private enrichment. The United States has always been ostensibly free. If one preferred to look out for number one, if one preferred to gouge every dollar to be made and horde it personally, one can do that, the landscape is littered with companies that do damn near anything to make every red cent possible.

Banana republics become banana republics when staffed with people who subsume the machinery of government and use it to enrich themselves, privately. They are nations of “men” not of laws, and the “men” (and women, but mostly men in these backwaters) inhabit a government where the idea of “law” bends to the will of those in positions of power, who are expected to use the government to get rich. In that sense, the United States makes the “competition” look like “peanut republics.” There is just too much money to be made.

Some examples? Sure:

A few weeks later, Koenig joined the White House as a policy assistant, putting him in a position to implement his former employer’s agenda. Sure enough, just over a year later, the administration has acted on 16 of the 19 suggestions that Freedom Partners listed. The moratorium on federal coal leases? Lifted. The Paris climate agreement? Withdrawn. The Clean Power Plan? Repealed. The FCC’s net neutrality policy, the EPA’s Waters of the United States rule, and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s arbitration rules? All reversed.

This is the essence modern American Republican government. Republicans convince their voters that Republicans are for the little guy, and that pro-business policies will result in jobs and higher pay. It is rarely true. Oh, sure, some regulations allow a company to hire a few more people, but that is nothing compared to the millions, perhaps billions that flow into the coffers of the very very top of those companies, those that receive the direct benefit, such beneficiaries include the people that make the very temporary move over to the government. These same people quickly move back to the very position in the private sector to enjoy the spoils. Meanwhile, the wealthy will point to the rising Dow, the falling unemployment as evidence that all this “works” to help the voters themselves. The politicians never mentioning that pay wages remain stagnant, that the actual voter saw no financial gains.

The Republicans also like to pretend that cutting regulations is ipso facto a good thing. Yet, regulations are generally in place because a problem existed. Recall the air in southern California prior to the Clean Air Act? How about the water that used to light on fire in Ohio? Texas’ “business friendly” approach didn’t help the dead who passed when a close fertilizer plant blew up due to lack of regulations. And how about when “regular Joe’s” tax dollars are spent cleaning up a super-site long after the company that made the money cleared out. Privatize profits, socialize losses, describes the essence of Republican doctrine.

Charlie Pierce has had quite enough, thank you:

My guess is that the real gold is to be found in the section about Special Government Employees, who are not required to submit financial disclosure forms, which are public records, and who are exempt from a number of other ethics requirements that apply to government work. Spelunking through this database is going to be fun, and ProPublica is promising regular updates. The Swamp may be the only thriving wild ecosystem left in the country once these guys are finished with it.

Anyone surprised? To the extent anyone could be surprised, it would be only that the Trump administration has been able to get away with it as long as it has. These people, all of them have done nothing throughout their lives, other than look for ways to bilk people out of their money, whether it is through the proven fraud that is “Trump University,” or continually stiffing contractors who expend materials and labor upon projects that enrich Trump, and the innumerable bankruptcies in which Trump walked away with hundreds of millions, while the investors (like citizens) were left holding the bag, losing dollars, collecting pennies.

Who knew that “Make America Great Again” meant turn the U.S. into the most corrupt nation on Earth, building the greatest Gilded Age ever.

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