Trump's Pick for: Vice President
Corporate Connections: Koch Industries
Former Indiana Gov. Mike Pence received hundreds of thousands of dollars from right-wing billionaire David Koch and benefited from ads run by the Koch brothers during his gubernatorial campaign. He also has raked in eye-popping sums from the finance sector, construction industry, pharmaceutical industry and chemical industry. Pence favors austerity when it comes to government spending. As a congressman, he opposed fiscal stimulus, and as governor of Indiana, he paid for corporate tax cuts by reducing local spending.
Pence has enjoyed support from David Koch, right-wing billionaire co-owner of Koch Industries, who has donated $300,000 to Pence’s campaigns.
Pence opposed the bailouts of General Motors and Chrysler, saying that “it still would have been better if G.M. had gone through an orderly reorganization bankruptcy without taxpayer support.” Pence generally opposes government spending on private sector initiatives, preferring to let the marketplace decide whether companies fail.
During his political career, Pence has received more than $1.5 million from the finance sector, more than $1 million from the construction industry, $793,750 from the pharmaceutical industry, and $685,283 from the chemical industry.
Last update: 1/11/17
Rex Tillerson Secretary of State
Name: Rex Tillerson
Trump's Pick for: Secretary of State
Corporate Connections: ExxonMobil, American Petroleum Institute
Rex Tillerson has been chairman and CEO of ExxonMobil, the world’s largest oil corporation, for 10 years. But oil has run through his veins for much longer; he has worked for the company since 1975, when it was just Exxon. Exxon was aware of climate change since at least 1977, but, instead of taking action to prevent catastrophic global warming, spent millions on climate denial campaigns to confuse the public. Tillerson holds $218 million in the company’s stock and has a pension plan worth $69.5 million. Tillerson has close ties withRussian President Vladimir Putin.
One analyst (who works for a foreign policy think tank on which Tillerson sits on the board of directors) said, “He has had more interactive time with Vladimir Putin than probably any other American with the exception of Henry Kissinger.”
Tillerson is a leader and a former chairman of American Petroleum Institute, the fossil fuel industry trade group, which lobbies on behalf of the industry. Tillerson also is a member of the Business Roundtable, an executive-led corporate lobbying group.
Since 1990, Tillerson has contributed $428,520 to support Republican political candidates.
Last update: 1/11/17
Steven Mnuchin Treasury
Name: Steven Mnuchin Trump's Pick for: Secretary of the Treasury Corporate Connections: CIT Group, One West, Goldman Sachs
Steven Mnuchin was steeped in the investment banking industry long before it became a poster child for economy-wrecking, foreclosure-inducing Wall Street greed. For 17 years, Mnuchin worked for investment bank Goldman Sachs, eventually rising to chief information officer under CEO (and future Treasury Secretary) Henry Paulson. After leaving Goldman Sachs in 2002, Mnuchin began working in the hedge fund industry. He initially worked for billionaire George Soros, then formed his own hedge fund, Dune Capital Management. Dune specialized in investing in films, including American Sniper, Gravity, Avatar and Life of Pi. In 2008, Mnunchin led an investment group, which included Soros and other Wall Street luminaries, to purchase failed IndyMac bank from the federal government. Under Mnuchin’s stewardship, IndyMac was accused of being especially aggressive in foreclosing on homeowners. The bank, renamed OneWest, reportedly has paid a seven-figure settlement for duplicitous practices toward its customers and signed a consent order with the federal government admitting to engaging in improper document-singing practices. In 2015, OneWest merged with CIT Group. Mnuchin stayed on briefly as a vice president and board member of CIT, but stepped down from the executive position in the spring of 2016. He resigned from his position on the board shortly after being nominated to serve as Treasury secretary.
Published estimates on Mnuchin’s wealth vary. Forbes estimates his net worth at $300 million. Bloomberg reported that Mnuchin may have received as much as $380 million in proceeds and dividends from his investment in IndyMac/One West, alone. As of February 2016, Mnuchin owned 2.47 million shares of CIT, which purchased One West. He presumably will need to sell the shares if he becomes the Treasury secretary.
In 2011, OneWest agreed to a consent order with the federal government in which it admitted to engaging in various improper actions, including having employees sign documents (including foreclosure documents) without confirming facts and assertions contained within them. This practice is commonly known as robo-signing.
In 2013, OneWest reportedly agreed to a settlement of more than $1 million over a lawsuit in which a couple alleged that the bank engaged in a practice knowing as “double tracking,” meaning that the bank simultaneously pursued foreclosure while ostensibly working with the borrower to adjust the borrower’s terms to avert foreclosure.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development is investigating aspects of OneWest’s reverse-mortgage business. CIT Group, which purchased OneWest, apologized to shareholders over a $230 million shortfall in the legacy company’s bookkeeping regarding reverse mortgages and promised “to strengthen the controls and procedures.”
Last update: 1/11/17
Gen. James Mattis Defense
Name: James Mattis
Trump's Pick for: Secretary of Defense
Corporate Connections: General Dynamics, Theranos
General James Mattis served in the Marines for 41 years before retiring in 2013. He led the initial Marine landing in Afghanistan following the September 11 attacks, and led the First Marine Division during the United States’ 2003 invasion of Iraq. From 2010 to 2013, Mattis led the United States Central Command, which oversees the Middle East and Southwest Asia. Since retiring, he has served on the boards of giant defense contractor General Dynamics and Theranos, a Colorado maker of blood testing products that also sought business from the Pentagon.
Since retiring from the military, Mattis has served on the board of General Dynamics, the nation’s third-largest defense contractor and recipient of $13.6 billion in federal payments in 2015. Mattis has accumulated nearly $900,000 in General Dynamics’ stock, according to Morningstar. Additionally, he has been paid nearly $600,000 by General Dynamics for his service on the board. “General Dynamics could try to use this relationships to get access into the Pentagon … I am very worried about this,” said Richard W. Painter, the former chief ethics counsel to President George W. Bush.
While still in the Marines, Mattis pushed for the military to begin using blood-testing products by Palo Alto-based startup Theranos. Theranos’s testing products were touted as revolutionary because they required only a pinprick instead of drawing a full vial of blood.
“I’ve met with my various folks and we’re kicking this into overdrive,” Mattis wrote to Theranos founder Amy Holmes in June 2012. “I’m convinced that your invention will be a game-changer for us and I want it to be given the opportunity for a demonstration in-theater soonest.”
But a military reviewer questioned the legality of Theranos’ processes. Prompted by an inquiry from Holmes, Mattis wrote to military officials: “I have tried to get this device tested in theater asap, legally and ethically ... This appears to be relatively straight-forward yet we’re a year into this and not yet deployed.” Upon leaving the military in 2013, Mattis joined Theranos’s board.
In 2016, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration ordered one of Theranos’ labs closed because of unsafe practices and banned Holmes from working in the blood-testing business for two years. Reporting does not indicate that Mattis was aware of improper practices by the Theranos when he advocated that the military use its products. Theranos’s website no longer lists Mattis among the firm’s directors.
Last update: 1/11/17
Jeff Sessions Attorney General
Name: Jeff Sessions
Trump's Pick for: Attorney General
Corporate Connections: Lockheed Martin, Petrobas
One of the most controversial Trump picks is U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), a senator since 1996 and GOP stalwart. Over his Senate career, he has received nearly $2.5 million from the finance, insurance and real estate industries. In 2016, he received more than $300,000 in campaign contributions from defense contractors -- $55,000 from Lockheed Martin alone. He is a member of the Senate Committee on Armed Forces and the Budget Committee. As Alabama’s attorney general in the mid 1990s, Sessions failed at times to combat corporate crime and wrongdoing, casting serious doubt on whether Trump’s attorney general nominee would be tough on corporate crime if confirmed.
As Alabama attorney general, Sessions refused to join other states in suing Big Tobacco. He also opposed 22 of his fellow state attorneys general, siding instead with the insurance industry, Exxon and the corporate lobby group National Association of Manufacturers in Adams v. Robertson, a U.S. Supreme Court case about consumer class actions.
Sessions in 2014 penned an anti-immigration op-ed for Breitbart.com, the far-right website once headed by Steve Bannon, now Trump’s chief strategist.
Betsy DeVos is the daughter of a wealthy western Michigan industrialist and is married to Amway heir Richard Devos. They have an estimated net worth of more than $5 billion. Members of the DeVos family have been among the foremost funders of right-wing politicians and ideological causes since the 1970s. Aside from extensive contributions to candidates and Republican Party committees, they have concentrated their giving to groups promoting free-market economics. Other contributions have gone to groups opposing campaign finance laws or working on social values issues, such as opposing gay marriage. DeVos’ greatest personal focus has been on education, such as seeking to expand charter schools, permit parents to use public funds as vouchers toward private school tuition and advocating related proposals to steer funding away from traditional public schools.
Betsy DeVos is chair of the Windquest Group, an investment firm in manufacturing, technology, clean energy and in other investment firms. Windquest has indirectly invested in Social Finance Inc. (SoFI), which profits by helping individuals negotiate the terms of their student loans. SoFi’s prospects could be hindered if proposals to lower the rates on federally issued student loans were approved.
The DeVos family has given an estimated $200 million to conservative causes, Mother Jones estimates. These include gifts to the Heritage Foundation, groups operated by right-wing billionaires Charles and David Koch, and various groups hostile to campaign finance laws.
The DeVos-funded Mackinac Public Policy Center teamed with Koch brothers and the American Legislative Exchange Council in support of “right to work” legislation that was approved in Michigan in 2012.
All Children Matter, an advocacy group that DeVos founded, still owes the state of Ohio $5.3 million stemming from a fine for election law violations it was found to have committed in 2008.
The DeVoses spent $2 million in 2000 on a Michigan referendum that would have permitted students to use public funds on vouchers toward private school tuition. The proposal failed.
A group financed by DeVos successfully opposed legislation “that would have prevented failing schools from expanding or replicating.” The proposed legislation responded to a federal finding that Michigan suffered from “an unreasonably high” percentage of poorly performing charter schools.
Financial disclosures released during Richard DeVos’s failed run for governor of Michigan in 2006 revealed that the couple were investors in K12 Inc., a controversial for-profit company that operates online charter schools. The disclosure did not indicate the size of the DeVoses’ investment.
With respect to the family’s extensive giving to conservative candidates and causes, Betsy DeVos wrote in 1997: "[M]y family is the largest single contributor of soft money to the national Republican party ... I have decided, however, to stop taking offense at the suggestion that we are buying influence. Now, I simply concede the point. We expect to foster a conservative governing philosophy consisting of limited government and respect for traditional American virtues. We expect a return on our investment; we expect a good and honest government. Furthermore, we expect the Republican party to use the money to promote these policies, and yes, to win elections."
Last update: 1/11/17
Wilbur Ross Commerce
Name: Wilbur Ross
Trump's Pick for: Commerce Secretary
Corporate Connection: WL Ross & Co LLC
Wilbur Ross is the chairman of the private equity firm WL Ross & Co LLC. His net worth is $2.5 billion. Dubbed the “king of bankruptcy” by supporters and despised as a “vulture” by critics, his firm specializes in the speculative activity of buying, restructuring and re-selling failing businesses. Having worker benefits such as pensions and health care offloaded in the bankruptcy process is a principal means by which Ross turns money-losing corporations into profit makers. Industries where Ross’ firm has been active include steel, coal, textiles and auto parts. At one distressed property his business acquired, a coal mine in West Virginia that was cited for numerous violations, an explosion in 2006 killed a dozen workers a few weeks after Ross’s company took it over. Ross is a major GOP supporter, giving nearly $1 million to Republican candidates over the past 17 years.
Ross sits on boards of directors of the ArcelorMittal (the world’s largest steel corporation), Bank of Cyprus, EXCO Resources (a fossil fuel corporation), Sun Bancorp (the bank holding company), Nexeo Solutions (a chemicals and plastics distribution corporation) and DSS Holdings (a shipping corporation).
Elaine Chao is a longtime Washington insider who worked as secretary of the Department of Labor under President George W. Bush from 2001 to 2009. She is the daughter of James Chao, millionaire chairman of the Chinese shipping corporation Foremost Group, notable because the Transportation Department oversees the U.S. Maritime Administration. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is her husband. From 2011 to 2015, Chao received $1.2 million in compensation for serving on the board of directors of Wells Fargo. This period overlaps with the Wells Fargo “cross-selling” scandal, during which the company created more than 2 million unauthorized accounts.
Chao also serves on the boards of directors for News Corporation, Dole and Protective Life Corporation, a financial service holding corporation.
Since 1990, Chao has contributed nearly $200,000 toward supporting Republican political candidates.
Last update: 1/11/17
Rick Perry Energy
Name: Rick Perry
Trump's Pick for: Energy Secretary
Corporate Connections: Energy Transfer Partners, Waste Control Specialists
While several of Donald Trump’s picks have criticized the agencies they are now being tapped to run, Rick Perry is perhaps unique in calling for the agency he is to head -- the U.S. Department of Energy -- to be eliminated altogether. Pro-energy industry Perry was the governor of Texas from 2000 to 2015, and for two years before that served as lieutenant governor under then-governor George W. Bush. Perry was a Republican presidential candidate in 2012 and 2016. As governor, Perry’s energy policy in Texas was pro-coal, pro-oil, pro-fracking and pro-nuclear waste. He sharply criticized the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan, which sought to lower carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants, and sued the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on behalf of Texas as part of a state effort to block the plan’s implementation. He has been an outspoken denier of the scientific consensus surroundinghuman-caused climate change. Until January 2017, he sat on the board of directors of Energy Transfer Partners, the corporation behind the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline.
Perry is or recently was a member of the board for Sunoco Logistics Partners, an energy company planning to purchase Energy Transfer Partners.
He promoted and permitted a low-level radioactive waste site in west Texas owned by his second-largest donor, Harold Simmons. Waste Control Specialists is seeking to expand this site to "store" deadly high-level radioactive waste, a goal that Perry championed. The U.S. Department of Energy will write the rules that will determine where this waste can be stored.
When asked in 2011 during a presidential debate which federal agencies he would eliminate if elected, he forgot the name of the Energy Department: “The third agency of government I would do away with - the education, the uh, the commerce and let’s see. I can’t [remember] the third one. I can’t. Sorry Oops.”
Perry was criticized during a 2011 presidential debate for accepting campaign contributions from Merck after he had signed an executive order mandating HPV vaccinations, which Merck makes. At the time, he had accepted $28,500 from Merck over his political career.
Perry is the only potential Cabinet member to appear on Dancing With the Stars. The Houston Chronicle said his cha-cha number went "about as well as his two presidential bids."
Last update: 1/11/17
Linda McMahon Small Business
Name: Linda McMahon
Trump's Pick for: Small Business Administration (SBA) Administrator Corporate Connection: World Wrestling
1980, Linda McMahon co-founded the World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE), and she
served as its CEO from 1997 to 2009. Under Linda McMahon’s leadership and
through her lobbying efforts, the wrestling industry remains largely unregulated,
saving her company millions but putting the health and safety of wrestlers at
risk. McMahon makes many of her employees “independent contractors,” which
allows her company to avoid providing health insurance to its employees, as
well as paying Social Security, Medicare and unemployment insurance taxes.
Under McMahon’s leadership,
the WWE successfully lobbied state legislatures to deregulate the wrestling
industry. The lobbying, which was largely successful, was focused on having the
“WWE removed from under the umbrellas of state athletic commissions,” according
to reports, “which allowed it to dodge some of the stiff testing standards and
fees that states imposed on bona fide athletic leagues.” The result was lower
health and safety standards for wrestlers, at a time when the WWE was “embroiled
in drug and steroid scandals.”
Name: Gary Cohn Cabinet Title: Director of National Economic Council
Corporate Connection: Goldman Sachs
Gary Cohn was chief operating officer of Goldman Sachs from 2006 to 2016, steering the investment bank’s daily activities. Under Cohn’s leadership, Goldman Sachs profited off the housing market collapse in part by misleading its own clients. Goldman sold ticking time bomb financial instruments to its clients, often overcharging them, misrepresenting the risk involved and failing to mention that Goldman itself was sometimes betting the products would fail. Much of Goldman’s most troubling pre-crash behavior occurred in 2007, when Cohn was awarded $67.5 million in compensation. Goldman has paid billions in fines for its actions under Cohn’s leadership. He has pushed strategies of outsourcing jobs and saving money by cutting employee compensation. Cohn will leave Goldman with “$266 million of stock and awards,” including as much as $58.5 million in stock awards from Goldman Sachs for taking a position in the Trump administration.
Cohn was at the center of the most recent financial crisis as chief operating officer of Goldman Sachs when the firm sold its own customers and investors products Goldman itself was sometimes betting would decline in value.
According to the U.S. Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, under Cohn’s leadership, Goldman Sachs “used net short positions to benefit from the downturn in the mortgage market, and designed, marketed, and sold CDOs in ways that created conflicts of interest with the firm’s clients and at times led to the bank’s profiting from the same products that caused substantial losses for its clients.” In other words, in what can only be described as a massive conflict of interest, often when Goldman’s clients lost, Goldman won – making billions. Internally, Goldman knew it was setting many of its clients up for failure, as the Senate investigation caught Goldman employees describing a product they were actively selling to clients as a “shitty deal.” After being sued by the client who received the “shitty deal,” Goldman eventually settled.
Under Cohn’s leadership, Goldman pushed “‘hard sell’ tactics, repeatedly urging its sales force to sell” the products it knew would decline in value (CDO securities) and to “target clients with limited CDO familiarity.”
In 2007 Cohn made $67.5 million. The same year, Goldman generated billions from its bet that the subprime mortgage market would drop, all while it “sold off the bulk of its subprime mortgage assets earlier and at higher prices than many other banks.” The Senate report described Goldman’s actions accordingly: “All of these explanations point to actions taken by Goldman to transfer the risks of its own subprime mortgage inventory to others, including many of its own customers, before they became fully aware of the risks entailed in the products Goldman was marketing to them.”
Trump’s pick for: Chairman of the U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission (SEC)
Corporate Connection: Goldman Sachs, Ally Financial, Alibaba Group
Walter “Jay” Clayton has such deep ties to the financial industry that he may have to recuse himself from many major enforcement actions his agency undertakes. Clayton is a partner with Sullivan & Cromwell, a Wall Street law firm. According to The New York Times, Sullivan & Cromwell has been Goldman Sachs’ “go-to law firm for more than a century.” His wife, Gretchen Clayton, is a wealth management adviser at Goldman Sachs -- whose activities fall squarely under the purview of the SEC. He was the lead signatory to the New York Bar Association’s 2011 research paper complaining that the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) -- that is, the enforcement of international anti-bribery law -- imposes unreasonable costs on U.S. corporations. The SEC enforces the FCPA. The report was part of a coordinated campaign by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to limit enforcement of laws against overseas corruption. Clayton represented Italian oil firm Eni in an FCPA case alleging Nigerian officials were bribed with suitcases full of cash.
Because of Clayton’s wife’s Goldman Sachs income, a congressional aide said "Clayton will be the most financially conflicted SEC chairman in history." He will be required to recuse himself from enforcement actions against Goldman Sachs, but not regulatory actions that could impact Goldman Sachs’ profits.
Regarding Clayton’s Goldman Sachs recusals, Rolling Stone’s Matt Taibbi wrote, “Who needs an SEC chief who has to stay on the sidelines for some of the most important cases the agency considers? It's like having a police commissioner who has to cover his ears every time someone mentions the Crips or the Latin Kings.”
Clayton advised Goldman Sachs on the $5 billion investment it received from Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway during the financial crisis.