WASHINGTON — The Project On Government Oversight (POGO) issued the following statement today from Sean Moulton, POGO Open Government Program Manager:
“New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s $5,000 invitation to supporters to meet with Donald Trump’s transition team is troubling for anyone who believes money shouldn’t dictate policy.
Sadly, paying for access is common in presidential campaigns. Fundraising dinners, parties, and other events often provide facetime with candidates for large donors.
However, by inviting supporters to pay for access to Trump’s transition team, Christie and the Trump campaign have crossed the line from politics into policy. And while Clinton’s transition team is almost certainly also fundraising, it has not announced similar plans to sell access to the inner workings of the transition.
Presidential transition teams are tasked with setting up the governing infrastructure for a new federal administration. Their work will influence how trillions of government dollars are spent. The team’s decisions will influence federal policies, regulations, and officials appointed to oversee federal agencies.
That’s why monied interests should not be offered a special seat at the transition table. POGO believes there should be transparency and ethics principles in place both for transition teams and administrations to better prevent conflicts of interests. Donors shouldn’t be driving the next president's cabinet and policy agenda.
We recognize that transition teams need significant amounts of money to accomplish their work. That is unlikely to change; however, contributors should not get any special access or involvement in the transition process. Ideally, we should be taking the steps to publicly fund presidential transition efforts and eliminate this potential for undue influence.
The transition team should also be as transparent as possible by publicizing the names and affiliations of all external stakeholders with whom they communicate.
The Obama transition team in 2008 set a strong example on transition transparency, establishing a website through which people and groups could submit suggestions and where the transition team posted all submitted materials for public review.
While POGO continues to criticize and investigate the access Clinton Foundation donors were possibly granted at the State Department under Hillary Clinton’s leadership, we note that Christie’s invitation for special access to the transition process in exchange for sizable contributions amounts to the same unethical behavior they accuse Clinton of pursuing.
If an administration is to be free of scandals and questionable behavior, we must ensure that the planning process meets the same ethical standards we expect from those already in office.”