Candidate Trump never shied away from bragging about being a big businessman. From talk about golf courses in Scotland to million-dollar deals in New York, the man has always sought to bind his brand to extravagance and wealth. As president, he’s left his role in the boardroom for a larger-than-life position in the Oval Office. What he might not keen on sharing with his constituents is how big money is behind the Trump transition.
A nonprofit which was created to ease the president’s transition into Washington raised upwards of six million dollars. By February 15th, they’d taken $4.7 million out of their fund to help Trump stop his hair from going grey after the inauguration.
The billionaire president who promised to keep lobbyists out of his transition committee didn’t mind their presence underneath the guise of a transition nonprofit.
Some of the biggest names on Wall Street sent barrels of cash to the team. Brian Ballard, described by the Center for Public Integrity as a “longtime lobbyist for the Trump Organization,” arranged a fundraiser in Orlando. His firm, Ballard Partners, “contributed the maximum of $5,000.” Not long after, he opened an office in the nation’s capital. Ballard has since swept up high-flying clients like American Airlines, as well tech behemoth Amazon and private corrections corporation Geo Group.
Geo Group had notably signed a check for $5,000 directly to the transition. The private prison industry had contracts with the federal government rescinded under the Obama administration. After Trump’s election, stocks for companies like Geo Group and CivicCore busted out of the hole and have continued rising well into 2017.
The list of lobbyists helped build the $6.5 million nonprofit transition fund is long and varied. Donors range from the National Rifle Association’s Institute for Legislative Action to the Independent Community Bankers of America and the National Beer Wholesalers Association. Silicon Valley also made its presence known. Lobbyists for Microsoft and Facebook contributed funds, as did JP Morgan Chase & Co and ExxonMobil.
Notable individual donors include several current confirmed cabinet nominees. Betsy DeVos pledged $5,000 to the transition along with other of her family members. Wilbur Ross, the hopeful Commerce Department Secretary, did the same. Rex Tillerson, the Secretary of State, is the former CEO of ExxonMobil.
The full list of GOP mega-donors, businesses, and organizations who gave money to the transition nonprofit can be found on the Center for Public Integrity’s website.
The document outlining the who’s who of donors was released on February 19th after a Freedom of Information Act request was submitted to the General Services Administration. The Center for Public Integrity noted that, “unlike standard campaign finance reports filed with the Federal Election Committee […] Trump’s transition funder list does not include contributor’s addresses, employers or occupations, making it more difficult to verify the identities of contributors.”
Vice President Mike Pence has promised that the transition nonprofit will refund 20% of the taxpayer-allocated contribution.
Barack Obama’s 2008 transition group raised $4 million. The Obama administration barred donations from lobbyists, labor unions, corporations, and special interest political committees.