Last night, the White House released its list of ethics waivers for employees, exempting them from federal conflict of interest laws, regulations, and President Trump’s own appointee ethics pledge. These results are disappointing, and show that Trump’s campaign promise to drain the swamp does not include preventing the revolving door from the private sector to public service.
These waivers show that President Trump isn’t interested in draining the swamp. His slogan should be ‘Making America Well-Connected Again.’ Allowing White House staff to meet with former employers and clients and handle matters on which they lobbied is a recipe for policies that are bad for taxpayers.
Until yesterday, the White House ethics waiver page stated that the “information on this page is being updated. Ethics pledge waivers will be published as they become available.” Now, it lists waivers for 11 named White House staffers, all Executive Office of the President Appointees, White House Office Commissioned Officers, and “Former Jones Day employees” (the law firm that employed Donald F. McGahn II, Counsel to the President, and handled legal matters for the Trump campaign). They have received certain waivers from revolving door rules as well as from matters that involve personal financial conflicts of interest.
POGO urged the White House to release ethics records in a letter last month. Although we support the use of ethics waivers in limited circumstances, the Project On Government Oversight has opposed them during the Obama administration when they were granted to those who have a personal or private financial interest.