One of the catchier, if vague, slogans of the Trump campaign in 2016 was “Drain the Swamp!” which normally was interpreted as meaning an attack on special interest influence of government policy-making via lobbyists. But that wasn’t so clear given the fact that Trump borrowed it from Ronald Reagan, who meant it to involve getting rid of “wasteful” federal programs, i.e., those that conservatives didn’t like.
The first tip-off that “Drain the Swamp” didn’t mean an ethics crusade came from the composition of Trump’s post-election transition team, which was thickly larded with lobbyists (in sharp contrast with what the supposed corrupt insider Hillary Clinton had planned: a ban on any lobbyists on the transition team).
Now a bit over halfway through Trump’s first term, the liberal group American Bridge 21st Century has supplied the Washington Post with a list of lobbyists on Team Trump, and it’s formidable:
Data provided to The Post … identifies over 350 individuals who’ve worked as lobbyists who currently work in the administration, have worked in it or have been nominated to serve in Trump’s administration. Cumulatively, they’ve represented more than 2,800 companies at one point or another, according to lobbying registration documents. Nearly 200 of them now served or have been nominated to serve in divisions of government that they once lobbied.
Most of these people are not as famous (or infamous) as, say, the former oil industry shill and coal lobbyist who have serially run the Environmental Protection Agency under Trump. But 350 ex-lobbyists represent a lot of special interests. And their greatest concentration, the Post notes, is in the Executive Office of the President, where 47 ex-lobbyists toil to set policy for the entire federal government.
One great fictional swamp-dweller, the Okefenokee possum named Pogo in the cartoon strip of that same name, once made an observation that holds true for the alleged swamp-drainers of the Trump administration: “We have met the enemy and he is us.”