Some presidential appointees in the Trump administration have very close business ties to the agencies for which they work, and the Trump administration might be working around ethics violations, according to a report Saturday.
The New York Times, working in collaboration with ProPublica, reports that an analysis of lobbying documents and interviews with current and former ethics officials found that at least two appointments may have violated the Trump administration's own ethics rules. However, figuring out if there were ethics violations is near impossible because the administration is secretly issuing waivers to the rules.
One of the cases mentioned in the report relates to Michael Catanzaro, who serves as the top White House energy adviser. Until late 2016, he was working as a lobbyist for major industry clients such as Devon Energy of Oklahoma, an oil and gas company, and Talen Energy of Pennsylvania, a coal-burning electric utility.
Chad Wolf is also examined. He spent years lobbying to secure funding for the Transportation Security Administration, and now is the agency's chief of staff.
Other examples are in the Labor Department — two officials were K Street lobbyists fighting the Obama administration, and now are working on labor rules.
The Times said that White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders turned down its requests to speak with Stefan Passantino, the White House ethics lawyer. The White House did, however, provide the news outlet with a statement.
"The White House takes its ethics pledge and federal conflict of interest rules very seriously. The White House requires all of its employees to work closely with ethics counsel to ensure compliance and has aggressively required employees to recuse or divest where the law requires," the statement read.