PRO PUBLICS REPORTED that the Trump administration appears to be either ignoring or exempting top staffers from its own watered-down ethics rules.
As we have detailed, President Trump in January issued an order weakening Obama-era ethics policies, allowing lobbyists to work at agencies they had sought to influence. The Trump order did limit what lobbyists could do once they entered government, banning them from directly handling issues on which they had lobbied.
But the administration may not be even following that.
We’ve found three hires announced this week who, in fact, are working on the same issues on which they were registered lobbyists while in the private sector.
Consider Shahira Knight, President Trump’s special assistant for tax and retirement policy.
Lobbying disclosures show that Knight lobbied the government on a host of retirement and tax issues for financial services giant Fidelity. In one case, she lobbied against a regulation requiring financial professionals to act in the best interests of their clients when it comes to retirement accounts such as 401(k)s. The regulation is strongly supported by consumer advocates and strongly opposed by Fidelity. Retirement savers lose billions of dollars a year because of conflicts of interest in the industry, the Obama administration estimated.
The Trump executive order says former lobbyists like Knight cannot work in the “specific issue area” in which they lobbied, though that phrase is not defined.
Given that Knight lobbied on tax and retirement issues and is now working as Trump’s assistant on tax and retirement issues, how can she be in compliance with the ethics policy?