Lobbyists connected to the Trump administration and campaign have been key players in advocating for how COVID-19 resources are disseminated and regulations are decided, according to a new report from Public Citizen, a nonprofit consumer advocacy organization.
Shannon McGahn, senior vice president of government affairs for the National Association of Realtors (NAR), is among those named in the report.
“Federal lobbying expenditures in the first quarter of 2020 roughly equaled the all-time record for a single quarter, according to the Center for Responsive Politics,” the report reads. “Lobbyists reported working on behalf of more than 3,200 clients on the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act and other COVID-related issues during the quarter,”
“This statistic is even more striking given that the public-policy response to the coronavirus did not begin in earnest until March, the final month of the first quarter.”
COVID-19 was particularly lucrative to lobbyists with close ties to Trump, according to there report. NAR was among the clients of former Trump-connected lobbyists in McGahn, to seek essential industry status.
“Being defined as within a critical or essential industry can allow businesses to continue operating despite the pandemic and may give them some defense against lawsuits for unreasonably endangering workers or the public,” the report reads.
McGahn served as a counselor to Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin in 2017 and 2018, before taking the role at NAR. McGahn is also the wife of former White House Counsel Don McGahn.
A total of at least 40 lobbyists with ties to either Trump’s campaign or administration lobbied or registered to lobby on COVID-19-related issues, the report states, including those who lobbied on behalf of their industry to deem that industry an essential service.
Trump-connected lobbyists are also representing clients working on vaccines or other technology and non-pharmaceutical health products related to the virus, as well as nonmedical products.
“The facts in this report call for short-term and long-term responses to sever the conflicts of interest that incentivize government officials to favor the wealthy and well-connected over the constituents whom they are hired to serve,” the report reads. “The Trump administration should do everything in its power to enhance public disclosure of the details of COVID-related federal spending.”
“Future administrations should work with Congress to codify tighter restrictions on former officials engaging in federal lobbying activities; vastly increase the detail of lobbying disclosure rules; and approve a system that would permit viable candidates for office to receive public funding in exchange for eschewing large private contributions.”
A spokesperson for NAR told Inman, in a statement, that “NAR takes its lobbying disclosure and ethics requirements seriously.
“NAR and its employees are in full compliance with the [Lobbying Disclosure Act’s] post-government employment restrictions as well as the Trump ethics pledge,” the statement continued.
UPDATE: Story updated with comment from NAR.