Politics of Poverty

Did the Trump transition team just cave to public pressure?

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President-elect Donald Trump and Vice-President-elect Mike Pence at the election night rally. Pence is leading the Trump transition team. (Photo: AP / John Locher)

In a late announcement on Wednesday the Trump transition team changed its position on lobbyists.

Last week we reported on the worrying list of corporate and special interest lobbyists who were brought on to President-elect Trump’s transition team to build his new administration. The next day a wave of negative media coverage highlighted the same contradiction between his campaign’s promise to “Drain the Swamp” and his emerging administration’s reliance on the very special interests he had railed against.

The din of negative attention reached a crescendo with a report in POLITICO that the transition team had ignored its own code of conduct by hiring lobbyists whose work overlapped with matters on which they lobbied in the previous year.

But late last night, the transition team seemed to buckle under the pressure, reversing course, firing members of the staff and announcing new restrictions on lobbying. The ban “will require administration members to agree that they will not lobby the federal government for five years after they leave service.” According to POLITICO it “Sent a chill through K street.”

It’s a promising development, if only because it shows that the new administration is not entirely immune to public scrutiny, pressure and advocacy on certain issues. Whether the new restrictions will actually have the effect of limiting the influence of special interests on the new administration remains a very open question. That is a fight that will continue for months and years to come.

But the real takeaway seems to be that – under the right circumstances – public pressure can effectively push the new administration to change its course. That’s a lesson with significant implications for how the public, and Oxfam’s supporters, should engage with President Trump over the next four years.

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