With the departure of Defense Secretary James Mattis, industry lobbyists now make up four of President Trump’s cabinet secretaries.

The New York Times’ Eric Lipton reminded his followers Wednesday that secretaries for several of the most important agencies the executive branch of the federal government — like the Departments of Defense, Interior, and Health and Human Services — are lobbyists for the industries those agencies are ostensibly supposed to be regulating.

Since Trump has been president, Boeing has spent approximately $28 million lobbying Congress. This has resulted in many lucrative deals for the aerospace contractor, most recently winning a $400 million contract to build B-1 and B-52 bombers just before the end of 2018, according to Reuters. To his credit, Patrick Shanahan — the acting Secretary of Defense — recused himself Wednesday from matters involving his former employer.

However, other cabinet secretaries haven’t made similar recusals despite their actions having a direct impact on the companies that used to write them large paychecks. Acting Environmental Protection Agency administrator Andrew Wheeler is a former coal industry lobbyist who now heads the agency charged with imposing regulations on the coal industry to protect the environment. Just days after Christmas, Wheeler proposed a new rule change that would allow for more mercury pollution from coal-fired power plants.

Former Interior secretary Ryan Zinke has also left his post, paving the way for former oil industry lobbyist David Bernhardt to lead the agency tasked with protecting public lands. And Alex Azar, who has headed the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) since 2018, is a former lobbyist for pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly. He has done little to stop the wave of increases in drug prices since taking the helm at HHS, including new price hikes set to take place in 2019.

President Trump has seen an incredibly high turnover rate for cabinet secretaries since becoming president. The State Department and the Department of Justice have seen new secretaries in the past year. In addition, other agency chiefs from the Departments of Defense, Health and Human Services, Veterans Affairs, to the EPA, the CIA, and the Offices of the National Security Adviser and the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, have also seen turnover in the past year.


Tom Cahill is a contributor for Grit Post who covers political and economic news. He lives in Bend, Oregon. Send him an email at tom DOT v DOT cahill AT gmail DOT com.


  1. Recently had a conversation about this kind of thing with an acquaintance who wholly supports Trump.

    What they said basically boils down to this: “I don’t care how rich he and his friends are getting off us, I don’t care who he’s cheated with his wife on, I don’t care if he’s a racist or a fascist or even a Nazi. All I care about is my family being safe, my job being secure, and my belly being full. I care about this country being able to defend itself against everyone else in the world combined. If that means we accidentally bomb innocent foreigners with terrorists, that we jail illegal children, that other countries suffer, so be it. The only thing that matters is what he does for me, my family, my community, and my country.”

    And I think that’s a fair representation of what a number of his supporters feel. For whatever reason, they are fed up with having to feel like they have to care about other people. They want their needs and wants met first, and damn who has to suffer for them to get it.

    1. And, to top it off, he probably goes to church every Sunday morning, sings a few hymns, including “How Great Thou Art”, and feels totally at ease with himself that he is living a life totally contrary to everything Jesus stood for. He sung a few hymns and put $10 in the offering plate. That is enough.

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