Blumenthal, Senate Democrats to President-Elect Trump: Make Good on Promises to "Drain the Swamp" of Corporate Special Interests in Washington

19 Senators call on Donald Trump to increase transparency and adopt Obama lobbying and ethics rules for his transition and administration

(Washington, DC) – Today, U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) joined 18 Senate colleagues in sending a letter urging President-elect Donald Trump to increase transparency during his transition and keep his promises to reduce the influence of lobbyists and corporate special interests during his transition and in his administration.  Despite a pledge announced last night to limit lobbying by members of the Trump administration, corporate lobbyists and Washington insiders have filled many prominent posts within the Trump transition team so far.  The letter was signed by Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Patty Murray (D-WA), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Richard Durbin (D-IL), Jack Reed (D-RI), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Robert Casey (D-PA), Tom Udall (D-NM), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Al Franken (D-MN), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and Edward Markey (D-MA).

“Given your initial decision to allow lobbyists to dominate your transition team, we call on you to be completely transparent about who is working on your transition team, either officially or as unofficial advisors, and making key decisions about how to staff over 4,000 political appointments,” the Senators write.  “Further, we call on you to follow President Obama’s example and implement strong, transparent and enforceable ethics rules governing your transition and Administration.  For instance, President Obama’s transition team did not accept gifts or donations from lobbyists, and your transition should do the same.  Additionally, while a limitation on lobbying activities after serving in your Administration is important, you should also include stronger measures, like those adopted by President Obama, that prevent lobbyists who join your Administration from working on policy areas in which they recently lobbied.  This will help ensure that officials in the Trump Administration are looking out for the best interests of the American people, not their recently former corporate clients.”

Full text of the letter is below.

November 17, 2016

President-elect Donald J. Trump
Trump-Pence Transition Team
1717 Pennsylvania Ave, NW
Washington, DC 20006

Dear President-elect Trump:

We write to urge you to follow through on your promise that you would work to reduce the influence of corporate special interests and lobbyists in our government.  As Democrats, we, too, are committed to freeing the political process from the stranglehold of special interests.   

On the campaign trail, you told voters that you are “fighting for every citizen that believes that government should serve the people, not the donors and not the special interests.”  One of your major campaign slogans was “drain the swamp,” referring to your promise to cleanse Washington of the toxic influence of corporate special interests. 

Your initial decision to fill your transition team with corporate lobbyists and insiders and solicit donations from them to finance its operation was deeply troubling.  While we have been encouraged by subsequent reports that indicate you are requiring lobbyists to deregister in order to stay on the transition team, and are instituting a five-year lobbying ban for officials leaving your transition team and your Administration, we believe clearer actions should be taken to truly insulate your Administration from corporate special interests. 

Given your initial decision to allow lobbyists to dominate your transition team, we call on you to be completely transparent about who is working on your transition team, either officially or as unofficial advisors, and making key decisions about how to staff over 4,000 political appointments. 

Further, we call on you to follow President Obama’s example and implement strong, transparent and enforceable ethics rules governing your transition and Administration.  For instance, President Obama’s transition team did not accept gifts or donations from lobbyists, and your transition should do the same.  Additionally, while a limitation on lobbying activities after serving in your Administration is important, you should also include stronger measures, like those adopted by President Obama, that prevent lobbyists who join your Administration from working on policy areas in which they recently lobbied.  This will help ensure that officials in the Trump Administration are looking out for the best interests of the American people, not their recently former corporate clients. 

Setting up your transition team and staffing your Administration is the first opportunity you have to prove that “drain the swamp” was more than just an expedient campaign slogan.   We sincerely hope that you will implement strong and transparent ethics guidelines to prevent special interests from taking over your Administration before it has even begun.

Sincerely,

###