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Editorial: Has “the swamp” been drained, or defended?

A clean, ethical government that does its job thoroughly and by stretching every tax dollar and federal budget to its maximum efficiency — this sounds like a dream to many Americans, and helped to push President Donald Trump into office during the 2016 election. “Drain the swamp” was a big mantra in his speeches and rally cries. Trump put pressure on Washington, D.C. by using the “drain the swamp” slogan to highlight issues that many Americans dislike — lobbyists, a “pay-to-play” campaign process and corruption.

Some of these “swamp” practices were selling points against a Hillary Clinton presidency. We’re quickly approaching a full year of Trump’s presidency, but genuine concern is rising in the American public — is Washington cleaned up, or has it survived untouched? Recent issues with cabinet members threaten the promise of polishing up our political scene.

This much is clear — Trump’s usage of “drain the swamp” is varied. The phrase has been a catch-all for many issues. Politico conducted a review of Trump’s usage of the phrase over various media and found “drain the swamp” associated with everything from “…voter fraud, media companies, shortcomings in the fight against ISIS, Clinton’s foreign policy, Obamacare, liberal Supreme Court justices and the Clinton e-mail investigation.” It’s unclear which aspects of the “swamp” Trump will address first, but several of his wide claims have been ignored or disproven since taking office.

Trump promised to further measures against lobbying of senators, representatives and top staffers, by signing into effect a five-year lobbying ban. Trump signed this executive order on Jan. 28 this year. However, by the end of May, Trump had given at least 16 officials exemption waivers on the lobbying ban — effectively reversing some of his cleaning progress. Waivers are not unusual. The amount given, though, is high for the time that’s passed since Trump took office.

In the United States government, lobbyists represent the interests of a particular group and try to push legislation that will help their representatives. There are good sides of lobbying — this process allows elected officials to learn more about issues, helps create legislation and gain support for certain movements. Lobbying is part of the first amendment’s backbone — allowing the people to petition their government.

As Dave Roos pointed out in his HowStuffWorks article about the history of lobbying, though: “This all sounds great until you bring up the issue of money. There is no getting around the fact that lobbyists are paid advocates.” Money is nearly always an issue of contention in the government. The “pay-to-play” vibe attached to the government is not only disheartening, but arguably misrepresents the issues of the American people. If only the issues that can pay top dollar make it to the Senate steps, who is being left behind in legislation?

Trump took a hard angle on general corruption in Washington during his election campaign. He took great issue with frivolous expenses. Incidences of unnecessary spending have already leaked from the White House. Now former-Health and Human Services secretary, Tom Price, spent more than $1 million taxpayer funds for private jet travel. This position has used commercial flights in prior administrations. Trump stated that Price is “a good guy” but cited disappointment about his actions.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin requested a government jet for a recreational trip to Europe, but was deemed unnecessary — rightfully, considering that the jet is estimated to cost $25,000 an hour in operations. Trump himself has taken multiple golf trips which can cost a couple million dollars in taxpayer money, each. Since costs about these presidential leisure trips aren’t commonly released, there is no way to clearly tally these expenses. Golf trips were directly cited by Trump in tweets from 2011 and 2014 about Obama’s alleged misuse of money.

After such strong remarks about cleaning up politics, Trump has failed to deliver meaningful changes to the scene since taking office. Despite the increased lobbying ban, Trump has surrounded himself with over 100 former lobbyists in various top positions. Untold millions have been spent on private jets and vacations.

This can’t be what voters hoped for when they cast their ballots in November. Americans want their issues represented, their money spent responsibly and their government to place their interests in the country first — not vacations or big paychecks.

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