“Trump town” navigating trump appointees through data salon.com power usage estimator


SGEs have been allowed since the 1960s, after Kennedy administration agencies argued that the government couldn’t “obtain the expertise it needs if it requires experts to forego their private professional lives as a condition of temporary service.” SGEs are by no means unique to the Trump administration — Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin was for a time an SGE, working for the secretary of state as well as for Teneo, a consulting firm.

At the Department of Transportation, Thomas Martin Fiorentino Jr. was making between $10,512 and $15,800 per month as an SGE in the Immediate Office of the Secretary while he ran his lobbying and consulting firm, the Fiorentino Group. Fiorentino describes himself as one of Florida’s most prolific political fundraisers, as well as “one of the largest fundraisers in the nation” in the last four presidential elections.

Fiorentino left the Trump administration on May 1, according to Transportation Department officials, but his consultant job was only disclosed last month through a Freedom of Information Act response from the agency. In a statement, the Transportation Department said “consultants do not have decision-making authority, and could not approve actions or sign documents for agency actions.” Read the Department of Transportation’s full comment.

We have requested the names, titles and employment information of these government consultants and have included several dozen spread across seven different agencies. You could dig into what these folks do for their day jobs and the conflicts that might present.

Back in March 2017, Bloomberg used an earlier version of our data to show that just 27 percent of political appointees in the new Trump administration were women. A year later, The Atlantic did a similar analysis, finding the gender breakdown had only improved slightly, to 33 percent. That’s compared to the 2 million-plus federal workforce in the executive branch, which is 43 percent female, and the entire U.S. workforce, in which 47 percent of employees are women.

Similar demographic analyses focusing on age or ethnicity could be done. The goal: to see if the Trump administration reflects the public it serves. You could also background individual employees to estimate ages, using LinkedIn, resumes and other biographical information.

After one meeting with members of Fixed Annuity Consumer Choice, another industry group, Heyl followed up with a phone call to the group’s leadership. The group has been lobbying the federal government to prevent an amendment to the so-called “Fiduciary Rule,” which would potentially create another costly layer of regulation for independent insurance agents.

In the Obama administration’s Labor Department, the Office of Public Liaison was re-branded the Office of Public Engagement and sought to balance its meeting schedule with worker advocates and business interests. But lobbyist and industry connections still existed in the Obama years; Labor’s public engagement office was once run by a former McDonald’s media relations manager, Ofelia Casillas.

The Department of Labor said it has an “open door policy” with all stakeholders. “Mr. Heyl brings deep experience in the public and private sectors to leading the Department’s external engagement activities,” Labor Department spokesman Eric Holland said.

Ethics experts told us that Sands’ waiver, which allows him to advise on a “broad range of agricultural interests” at a time when Atrazine is under review at the EPA, is a “major conflict of interest.” Sands’ waiver wasn’t made public until we started asking the EPA about it, and they declined to answer questions about his involvement in the agency’s ongoing review of Atrazine.

Sands is hardly the only Trump administration employee with an ethics waiver. Former associates and partners at the Jones Day law firm — so far we’ve found 15 of them appointed by Trump — enjoy a blanket waiver when they join the administration, allowing them to communicate with their old employer and work on some subjects they had previously handled at Jones Day.

Last year, we found that James E. Cason, a deputy administrator at the Department of the Interior, left off details about a $50,000, five-month contract he had with the Quapaw tribe of Oklahoma. At Interior, Cason oversees tribal lands and was named in a $175 million lawsuit the tribe brought in 2013, stemming from his earlier government work. He also has referenced the Quapaws in government meetings on Capitol Hill, as recently as June.

It tried, in 2012. But they were stopped by a group of former federal officials in law enforcement, diplomatic and national security positions. The group wrote to congressional leaders, saying a searchable list “will create significant threats to the national security and to the personal safety and financial security of the executive branch officials and their families, especially career employees.”

We’re publishing this information because without it the public would have no meaningful way to scrutinize a powerful and often hidden cadre within the federal bureaucracy. We see Trump Town as a key tool for understanding appointees’ interests and potential conflicts.

It is for this reason — to allow for transparency — that senior executives within the federal government have for decades filled out annual financial disclosure reports under the Ethics in Government Act. And it’s why, for political appointees, these forms are public. Note that we are not publishing details about career civil servants.