Some Think Draining the Swamp Means Reducing Consumer Protection

by Jeff Sovern

According to Politico, President Trump first used the phrase "drain the swamp" in a speech on October 17, 2016, in which he announced an ethics plan to, in fact, drain the swamp. Here's the Washington Post's quote of what he said draining the swamp meant:

First: I am going to re-institute a 5-year ban on all executive branch officials lobbying the government for 5 years after they leave government service. I am going to ask Congress to pass this ban into law so that it cannot be lifted by executive order. Second: I am going to ask Congress to institute its own 5-year ban on lobbying by former members of Congress and their staffs.Third: I am going to expand the definition of lobbyist so we close all the loopholes that former government officials use by labeling themselves consultants and advisors when we all know they are lobbyists. Fourth: I am going to issue a lifetime ban against senior executive branch officials lobbying on behalf of a foreign government. Fifth: I am going to ask Congress to pass a campaign finance reform that prevents registered foreign lobbyists from raising money in American elections.

After reading that, you might think that draining the swamp would be good for consumer protection because according to, in 2016, the Finance, Insurance & Real Estate Industries ranked second in lobbying spending at 486,122,908 (I subtracted the money spent by accountants, who are for some reason included in the total), and reported 2,078 lobbyists (again, dropping the accountants), or nearly four for every member of Congress. Spending last year worked out to more than $900,000 per member of Congress, or more than $1.3 million per day.  But some seem to think the president meant something else when he spoke about draining the swamp. For example, House Financial Services Committee Chair Jeb Hensarling refers to the CFPB as a "bureaucratic swamp," while the Wall Street Journal just published an essay titled Before You Leave The Swamp… about holding CFPB Director Richard Cordray in contempt. 

(By the way, for those wondering, lists lobbying spending for lawyers and law firms as 14,863,270 (about 3% of the number for the finance et al. industry) and the number of their lobbyists as 188 (about 9% of the number for the finance, et al lobbyists). Some of the contributors include entities unlikely to oppose predispute arbitration, such as large law firms that represent financial institutions, but maybe that's fair as the finance et al, industry  lobbies for many things that don't affect people in their role as consumers.

0 thoughts on “Some Think Draining the Swamp Means Reducing Consumer Protection

  1. Ed Mierzwinski says:

    Jeff-Good piece but I’d count the accountants, who function as Wall Street aiders and abettors as much as the lawyer, lobbyist and PR flack classes do. The big accounting firms’ overt incompetence, covert coverups and brazen self-dealing were an instrumental part of numerous Wall Street collapses, from Enron to Lehman. As Yves Smith recently pointed out in Naked Capitalism, their vast cadre of pretend-we’re-wearing-whiteshoes lobbyists and lawyers continues to help lead the financial deregulation fight in 2017, seeking further delays and dilution of yet-unfinished SEC and other rules required by the Sarbanes-Oxley Act enacted a full 15 years ago in the wake of Enron.

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