Watchdog group to track ex-Trump aides entering private sector

Former Interior Secretary David Bernhardt is one of the former officials on CACC's list. PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON (BLOOMBERG) - Companies that hire people who worked as top aides to former President Donald Trump will be identified by a new liberal watchdog group formed to track the employment of ex-senior administration officials.

The Campaign Against Corporate Complicity, which kicks off Tuesday (Jan 26), said it's building a list of former officials and aides who were involved in what the group says were the Trump administration's most controversial actions.

The group said the initiative, which started in the fall, gained momentum after Mr Trump egged on supporters who broke into the US Capitol on Jan 6 as Congress prepared to certify Mr Joe Biden's election victory. The organisation also cited the administration's policy of separating migrant families and its response to the coronavirus pandemic among examples of acts and decisions it's taking into account.

The Campaign Against Corporate Complacency (CACC) was formed by two public-interest groups in Washington, American Oversight and Accountable.US, which specialise in public records requests and research. Although they call themselves non-partisan, they count significant staffing from Democratic and progressive groups and don't disclose funding.

Among the former officials on CACC's list are former Interior Secretary David Bernhardt, former senior counsellor Kellyanne Conway, senior adviser Stephen Miller, former Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and former acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf, a spokeswoman for the group said.

Mr Miller worked on immigration policy and was a frequent Mr Trump defender on television. Ms Conway was also one of Mr Trump's most aggressive defenders until she left the administration last summer. Ms Nielsen oversaw family separations and Trump's border wall until she was pushed out in 2019 for not moving quickly enough on his agenda, Bloomberg has reported. Mr Wolf, who subsequently oversaw the department in an acting role, resigned in the wake of the Jan 6 riot.

"As people leave government, we expect them to show up on the doorsteps of corporate America," said Mr Austin Evers, executive director of American Oversight. He urged companies to use the documents that the group has posted on its website to check on potential hires' roles in the Trump administration.

The group said it's still developing a full list of officials to track and plans to focus on top-level aides and officials, rather than rank-and-file government employees. It urges companies to "demand clear, evidence-based answers to whether a former official participated in enabling, crafting, implementing, or defending a concerted effort to shatter democratic norms and spread hate," according to a letter addressed to "America's CEOs".

The organisation's effort will join traditional revolving-door tracking by watchdog organisations and journalists, as well as a database by the Lincoln Project, which is outlined in a tweet from Mr Stuart Stevens, who advises the group of anti-Trump Republicans.

Some companies have pulled campaign donations from lawmakers who supported Mr Trump's false claims of a rigged election, which led to the Jan. 6 riot.

Former government staffers are worried about their professional futures now that they're branded with the "Scarlet T" of working for Mr Trump, Bloomberg has reported, and some lower-ranking staffers have said they've had offers withdrawn.

Ms Elaine Chao, who stepped down as secretary of transportation after the riot at the Capitol, will rejoin the Hudson Institute, according to a statement on Monday.

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