Wednesday, 15 February 2017

What does Trump’s pro-Lobbyist Approach in the Energy field mean for financial lobbyists?

It was reported yesterday that President Trump, despite his campaign promises to ‘drain the swamp’ and reduce the effect of lobbyists, has instead removed the rules that prohibit energy companies from lobbying foreign governments and keeping the payments secret. This ‘gift’ to energy lobbyists, combined with a recent appointment that puts lobbyists at the heart of the Environmentally-concerned agencies in the administration, is a growing concern for the environmental future of the United States primarily, and the rest of the world moreover. However, the focus for this short post will be on the message that this move sends to other lobbying organisations, like those that lobby for the financial or pharmaceutical sectors, for example.

President Trump’s move to alter the business of lobbying has the potential to look like a very responsible and publicly-concerned move – the headlines of banning executive appointees from lobbying for five years tend to grab people’s attention; Trump recently said at the signing of a related Executive Order that ‘most of the people behind me will not be able to go to work [after their term]’. Yet, upon further inspection, as with most of President Trump’s actions in the weeks since he has been in Office, there are more important elements to his order which are downplayed. For Trump’s orders, which attempt to build upon Ethics orders instituted by President Obama, there is no application to Congressional officials, and the five year ban only applies to the ability to lobby the specific agency that one worked for, not all governmental agencies – so, the people behind him can go to work after all. In addition to this, President Trump recently announced the appointment of Scott Pruitt to lead the Environmental Protection Agency, a man who has sued the agency in the past, denies climate-change science (rightly or wrongly, but nonetheless controversial), and has close ties with energy lobbyists. Not only this, but Trump has elevated Mike Catanzero, a former Koch Industries and CGCN Group Lobbyist, to the position of Energy Policy Advisor – a truly-staggering appointment.

This wilful infiltration and facilitation of lobbyists paints an extraordinary picture. Essentially, it creates a policy-for-sale environment that cannot result in positivity for American, and arguably global citizens. This approach will undoubtedly signal to other lobbying organisations like the Smith-Free Group, the Eris Group, Fierce Government Relations, the Daly Consulting Group, as well as traditionally-established groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, that the U.S. Government is officially for sale. If we combine this with an understanding that was demonstrated in previous posts then we can see a pattern forming. The obvious need to take great care after such an era-defining financial crisis is being systemically ignored by the Trump administration, whilst there are also real fears that the post-Brexit Conservative Government in the U.K. will solidify their pro-market approach and join their American partners. This outlandish approach is infiltrating environmental agencies with environmental lobbyist is extremely worrying because of the severe damage that errors, or unchecked greed in that arena may cause, but it also is representative of a wider push to sell the protection of society to the highest bidder, which is an alarming conclusion to make. Watching and critically assessing President Trump and Prime Minister May will be very important in the coming months and years, as both have signalled an intent, Trump specifically, to do away with caution; rarely does such an approach on the global political scale result in a more stable and productive society. 

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