News outlets are freaking out over reports that President Trump has granted ethics waivers to his senior staff so that they may work with political and advocacy groups they’ve dealt with in their previous careers.
Reports are saying that there was a “battle” between Trump administration officials and the Office of Government Ethics, which wanted the 14 waivers to be publicly displayed. The White House agreed on Wednesday to post the waivers online.
“I’m pleased that the White House has released the waivers on its website,” said OGE Director Walter Shaub Jr. “Having the waivers is critical to ensuring that agencies and individual appointees are adhering to ethics requirements.”
For instance, Kelly Anne Conway’s limited waiver allows her “to participate in communications and meetings with any former client which is a political organization, advocacy organization, trade association, or non-profit organization… on broad policy matters and particular matters of general applicability, notwithstanding the limitations found in paragraph 6 of the Ethics Pledge.”
Energy policy adviser Michael Catanzaro—a former energy industry lobbyist with clients in the oil, gas, and coal sectors—“may participate in broad policy matters and particular matters of general applicability relating to the Clean Power Plan, the WOTUS rule, and methane regulations.” Those “particular matters of general applicability” mean that Catanzaro will be allowed to promote policies that benefit his former clients, just so long as he doesn’t lobby for them directly.
Technology Director Charles Herndon’s waiver lets him “provide operational information technology services to the White House Office, the Office of Administration, and any other component of the Executive Office of the President which is not substantially related to specific matters he worked on while at CSRA, Inc.”
Trump critics are pointing out that former President Barack Obama‘s administration did not come close to giving out so many waivers in his first few months in office.
The Daily Beast noted hypocrisy in the act of doling out waivers to his staffers, writing, “The list provides the first official glimpse at the extent to which Trump has circumvented his own ethics rules by hiring former special interest advocates of the type that he railed against on the campaign trail,” adding, “But it does not cover the entire Trump administration and only discloses waivers granted to officials in the Executive Office of the President and the Office of the Vice President. The Office of Government Ethics had requested all waivers issued to appointees administration-wide, but it was not immediately clear whether those were to be made available by the White House or the applicable federal agencies.”
Here’s a short list of some White House staffers who have waivers:
- Chief of staff Reince Priebus
- Shahira Knight, a special assistant to the president for tax and retirement policy
- Andrew Olmem, a special assistant to the president for financial policy
- Chief strategist Steve Bannon
- Attorney Daniel Epstein
More waivers are reportedly out there. The Office of Government Ethics will release them to the public as soon as they come in from other federal agencies.
— Sunlight Foundation (@SunFoundation) June 1, 2017
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