Why would lobbyists donate to Trump’s transition team, which served as the official “government-in-waiting” that worked to craft the new administration’s policies and identify potential presidential appointees?
“Money buys access and influence,” said Craig Holman, a lobbyist for the public interest group Public Citizen, adding that he’s disappointed by the actions of a candidate who pledged to “drain the swamp” in Washington, D.C.
“Trump isn’t carrying through with his campaign pledge to build a wall between his administration and the lobbying profession,” said Holman.
Federal filings further show that scores of companies and trade associations that routinely lobby the federal government — including payday lender Advance America, commercial bank JPMorgan Chase and the American Resort Development Association —supported Trump’s transition team through their political action committees.
John T. Mechem, a spokesman for the Mortgage Bankers Association, said the $5,000 contribution the group gave in December through its PAC was “a means for us to help the Trump transition as they sought to identify the most qualified individuals for a variety of appointed positions in the new administration that will impact the business of financing residential, commercial and multifamily real estate.”
Jeff Leieritz, a spokesman for Associated Builders and Contractors, which also donated $5,000 through its PAC, said his organization was hopeful the Trump administration would “create a regulatory environment that will encourage greater business investment in the economy” and work to “rebuild our nation’s crumbling infrastructure.”
Many corporate interests also gave six- and seven-figure sums to Trump’s official inaugural committee, as the Center for Public Integrity previously reported.
Also among the financial backers of Trump’s transition: a number of high-profile Republicans.
According to a Center for Public Integrity review of filings with the Federal Election Commission, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch of Utah and House Transportation Committee Chairman Bill Shuster of Pennsylvania used their own leadership PACs to donate to Trump’s transition.
Overall, the Trump transition team raised about $5.4 million from private sources, including individuals, businesses and other entities. It also collected about $6 million in taxpayer money.
This story was co-published with Public Radio International, TIME and the Buffalo News.