One of President Donald Trump's first executive orders barred political appointees from his administration from lobbying for foreign governments and political parties for life. Members of Trump's campaign, however, are not impacted by the ban. Now Trump’s controversial former campaign manager-turned-lobbyist, Corey Lewandowski, hopes to lobby his former boss on behalf of foreign governments and interests -- despite pledging not to do so when he left the campaign.
Politico reported Monday that Lewandowski and his lobbying partner Bill Bennett “are actively seeking to represent foreign governments” at their brand new Washington lobbying firm, which is only steps away from the White House. Trump’s first campaign manager referred to his lobbying outfit, Avenue Strategies, as Trump’s “K Street Office” just as Trump prepared to enter the White House in January.
“We’re not here to compete with guys who are lobbying Capitol Hill. We’re here to lobby the administration,” Lewandowski’s lobbying partner, Bennett, said shortly after the firm opened its doors during the Trump transition. “We are going to help Trump advance his issues. If you're adamantly opposed to his policies, you shouldn't hire us.”
Bennett also vowed at the time that “the firm will work for any cause but not for foreign governments,” according to Politico. But as the cloud of suspicion surrounding the Trump campaign’s involvement with foreign entities looms larger, Trump’s favorite lobbyists are suddenly singing a different tune on lobbying the administration on behalf of foreign entities.
“We’ve met with a bunch of people,” Bennett said, confirming that the firm is currently in talks with officials from Albania and Kosovo. “It’s a big market, that’s for sure,” he told Politico.
While Trump repeatedly promised to “drain the swamp” in Washington during the campaign, his former campaign manager has openly sold his proximity to the president in order to attract clients for his lobbying firm. “If you had to put them in a chronological order, drain the swamp is probably somewhere down at the bottom,” Lewandowski said after the election in discussing his former boss’ yuuge campaign promises.
“I possess a unique knowledge of a number of the players going into the government,” Lewandowski said when announcing his new lobbying endeavor, adding that he's well prepared to “help guide businesses to the right person in government to get you a quick no rather than a prolonged maybe.”
Since the election, Lewandowski helped broker a dinner between Trump and Mexican telecom billionaire Carlos Slim. Last month, the campaign manager who was ousted shortly after the GOP primary season even claimed he still had access to Trump’s Twitter account.
As Politico noted, however, "Lewandowski’s firm is one of a handful of upstarts looking to undercut the lobbying giants that for years dominated the market for foreign lobbying work in Washington":
Others actively pursuing foreign clients include Bryan Lanza, who served as deputy communications director for Trump’s campaign and plans to represent foreign governments in his new job at Mercury. Mike Biundo, a senior adviser on the Trump campaign, is looking to do political work in foreign countries. And Brad Gerstman, a partner at Gotham Government Relations & Communications, the New York firm that helped orchestrate Trump's 2015 campaign announcement, said he was “in advanced talks with a whole bunch of these foreign nations.”
The Trump-linked firm that’s had the most success signing foreign clients is perhaps the lowest-profile of the bunch: SPG, a small lobbying shop that’s hired three former Trump staffers since the election. SPG has signed New Zealand as a client and is in talks with other countries. Stuart Jolly, a former national field director for the Trump campaign, signed on as SPG’s president after the election, and he estimated the firm has talked with around 15 foreign nations since he came aboard.