Pres. Trump Appointed an Energy Industry Lobbyist to Work on Energy and Environmental Policy
Pres. Trump has appointed a former lobbyist for energy industry companies as a special assistant with a role in shaping regulations on those very same companies.
And to do so, his administration granted a waiver to the section of the White House ethics pledge which specifically forbids former lobbyists from working on issues related to their former employers.
This decision shows that the Trump White House ethics pledge means absolutely nothing.
The Trump administration is actively working to hand control of the state over to private interests, in secret if necessary.
Published: January 30, 2018
The Trump White House Ethics Pledge
U.S. law gives the president the authority to prescribe regulations for the conduct of executive branch employees:
"The President may prescribe regulations for the conduct of employees in the executive branch."
On January 28, 2017, Pres. Trump exercised this authority by signing Executive Order 13770 into effect.
(Click here to learn about executive orders.)
This executive order, entitled “Ethics Commitments By Executive Branch Appointees,” specifies the ethics commitments Pres. Trump’s executive branch appointees are ostensibly expected to uphold.
Every White House staff member was required to sign the ethics pledge, contractually committing them to abide by it.
If a staff member violates the pledge, it is then up to the White House to determine whether it warrants disciplinary action.
(Click here to learn more about White House ethics pledges.)
One of the provisions contained in the ethics pledge is a two year restriction on former lobbyists working in the Trump White House participating in matters related to any lobbying they had done within the past two years:
“If I was a registered lobbyist within the 2 years before the date of my appointment ..... I will not for a period of 2 years after the date of my appointment participate in any particular matter on which I lobbied within the 2 years before the date of my appointment or participate in the specific issue area in which that particular matter falls.”
However, Pres. Trump, like his predecessor, chose to reserve the right to issue exemptions to this ethics pledge.
The ethics pledge contains a specific provision which allows Pres. Trump or a designee to grant any of his appointees a waiver which exempts the appointee from certain restrictions in the ethics pledge:
"The President or his designee may grant to any person a waiver of any restrictions contained in the pledge signed by such person."
Ethics Waiver for Michael Catanzaro, Special Assistant to the President
Until May 31, 2017, the Trump administration had been issuing ethics waivers to its staff in secret.
And it's no wonder the administration attempted to keep its waivers secret: when the administration finally released the ethics waivers to the public, after pressure from outside watchdog groups, it was revealed that the administration had been issuing waivers allowing former lobbyists who have now taken positions in the administration to work on the exact issues they had previously lobbied on.
(To learn about who lobbyists are and what they do, click here.)
One of the ethics waivers allows a former insurance industry lobbyist to work on reforming an insurance industry regulator.
Another allows a former financial industry lobbyist to advise on reforming tax and retirement policy.
Today Michael Catanzaro is Pres. Trump’s Special Assistant for Domestic Energy and Environmental Policy.
But prior to taking this position, Catanzaro was a partner at CGCN Group, a Washington, D.C. based lobbying firm.
Lobbyist disclosure forms for Catanzaro reveal that he lobbied on behalf of numerous companies involved in the oil, gas, coal or electric utilities industries while he was at CGCN Group.
(To learn about lobbyist disclosure forms, click here.)
He has lobbied for Devon Energy, an oil and gas company based in Oklahoma, on issues related to the Clean Air Act, climate change, crude oil and natural gas exports, and EPA regulations.
Catanzaro has also lobbied on behalf of Talen Energy, a coal-burning electric utility company based in Pennsylvania, on issues related to the Coal Combustion Residuals Regulation Act of 2015.
Disclosure forms also show Catanzaro has lobbied on behalf of Encana Oil and Gas, Halliburton Company, TransCanada Pipelines, Noble Energy, NextEra Energy, General Electric Energy Financial Services, American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers, an industry trade association, and America’s Natural Gas Alliance, a natural gas trade association.
Among other things, the ethics waiver issued on his behalf exempted Catanzaro from the restrictions in the ethics pledge and U.S. law which prevent a lobbyist from working on issues pertinent to a former employer.
Specifically, it allows Mr. Catanzaro to participate in activities related to the Clean Power Plan, the Waters of the United States rule, methane regulations covering oil, the National Ambient Air Quality Standards program under the Clean Air Act, and the Renewable Fuel Standard.
The Trump administration thus issued an ethics waiver that allows a former lobbyist for energy companies to participate in shaping regulations on energy companies, no bothersome lobbying disclosure forms needed.