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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. ...
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