US POLITICS

Trump’s Stacking His Team With Record Number Of Mega Donors

After blasting his opponents for being beholden to donors, Trump is royally rewarding his wealthy backers

US POLITICS
Photo Illustration: Vocativ, Source Image: Getty
Dec 27, 2016 at 12:20 PM ET

Donald Trump is making history again — by showering big donors with plum jobs and unparalleled access.

The president-elect, who made his purported independence from rich and powerful interests a touchstone of his populist campaign, has already stacked his administration with more large contributors than any modern White House, Politco reported on Tuesday. Meanwhile, more than a third of the nearly 200 people who have met with Trump since his victory last month are the very same folks who pumped vast sums of money into his campaign or other Republicans this election cycle, an analysis by the news site found.

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“The way this whole transition is going so far, we have as a general matter an unbelievable and shocking disregard for propriety and conflicts, much less the raging hypocrisy,” Norm Ornstein, a political scientist at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative-leaning think tank, told Politico.  “The bigger issue is the huge conflicts of interest and the utterly brazen way Trump and the people around him turning this into pay-to-play in a fashion never seen before.”

Trump repeatedly skewered Republican rivals Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio as “puppets” during the primaries for accepting big checks from well-heeled donors, a line of attack he later opened up against Hillary Clinton in the general election. As for the reality television star and self-proclaimed swamp-drainer-in-chief? “I am not controlled by my donors, special interests or lobbyists,” Trump declared on Facebook in September 2015, an argument he would assert, time and time again, over the next 14 months. “I am only working for the people of the U.S.!”

Trump, however, would eventually go on to fundraise from many of the wealthy donors he mocked and maligned. And now they’re getting an outsize seat at the table — and more.

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According to Politico’s analysis, 73 donors who have met with Trump since the election contributed $1.7 million to the president-elect and groups supporting him and another $57.3 million to the rest of the party — an average of more than $800,000 per donor. These wealthy donors also made up 39 percent of the 119 people Trump reportedly considered for high-level government posts, and 38 percent of those he eventually picked, the analysis found.

Some have also been elevated to top posts within the president-elect’s cabinet. Among them: billionaire Betsy DeVos, Trump’s choice to lead the Department of Education; fast food mogul Andy Puzder, who is his labor secretary pick; Linda McMahon, the wrestling magnate whom Trump named to lead the Small Business Administration; Steve Mnuchin, Trump’s campaign finance chairman, as treasury secretary, and; billionaire Wilbur Ross to head the Department of Commerce.

“If the people who are counseling the president-elect are the donor class — who, as Trump told us, give because they want something in return, those are his words — you will not get the policies his voters were hoping for,” Trevor Potter, who founded the Campaign Legal Center, told Politico.

“The risk here is disillusionment by the voters who voted for change and are going to end up with a plutocracy,” Potter said.