When the president was campaigning for office, he vowed to “drain the swamp.” So let’s look at the people he chose to lead our government’s most important departments and agencies.

He apparently doesn’t worry about big money influence. President Donald Trump’s original cabinet, with a net worth of $2.3 billion, was the wealthiest cabinet in modern history. In comparison, President Barack Obama’s had a net worth of $67 million, and President George W. Bush’s had a net worth of $352 million.

He also doesn’t bother to consider their knowledge or experience in the departments they’re leading. For example, his choice to lead the Environmental Protection Agency is a former coal industry lobbyist; his pick to head the Department of Health and Human Services was a pharmaceutical lobbyist and worked at Eli Lilly as an executive and was its president when the company tripled its price of insulin; billionaire Betsy DeVos, his secretary of Education, has no experience with public education and has lobbied for private-for-profit schools and against public schools. She also has given more than $8 million to Republican candidates.

When Trump’s first interior secretary Ryan Zinke resigned while being investigated for ethics violations, the president appointed Zinke’s deputy, David Bernhardt, as acting secretary. Bernhardt is a former oil industry lobbyist whose mantra, like Zinke’s, seems to be “drill, baby, drill,” in our national parks and other public lands. His goals are to relax environmental protections to benefit oil and gas companies and roll back the Endangered Species Act’s protections for wildlife.

Charles Rettig, commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service, was a tax lawyer who helped wealthy people hide their money, especially those with overseas bank, credit card and brokerage accounts. He owns millions of dollars of Trump-branded real estate which, according to top Republicans and Democrats on the Senate Finance Committee, he neglected to mention on his disclosure form. According to a June 27, 2018, article in Bloomberg, he went “—from running a law firm with 12 attorneys to a …bureaucracy with nearly 77,000 employees.” But he did write an opinion piece in 2016 saying that Trump should not release his tax returns.

Steve Mnuchin, secretary of the Treasury, was a hedge-fund manager for Goldman Sachs for 17 years. He bought IndyMac and renamed it OneWest Bank, which foreclosed almost 40,000 home mortgages. He was dubbed “the foreclosure king” because his bank was responsible for 39 percent of all foreclosures during the Great Recession, even though it serviced only around 17 percent of them. Because it made so many questionable foreclosures, sometimes back-dating documents, it had to pay millions in fines. Still, his net worth is valued at $400 million.

Patrick Shanahan, acting defense secretary, held senior positions at Boeing Co. for 30 years before being appointed by the president after Secretary James Mattis resigned in protest. Shanahan’s confirmation is in question since he’s being investigated by the Pentagon over allegations that, during internal meetings, he pushed Boeing weapons systems over those of Boeing’s competitor Lockheed Martin.

The March 13 issue of Military Times reported that, “In the fiscal year 2020 budget released Tuesday, the Air Force is set to purchase up to 80 F-15Xs over the next five years — a system, made by Boeing, that the Air Force has said it does not want.” It added that it will add more than $1 billion to the 2020 budget, and that Shanahan participated in that decision. Further, Shanahan has no foreign policy experience and has never served in the military.

Trump appointed millionaire Linda McMahon to head the Small Business Administration. She and her billionaire husband, who own World Wrestling Entertainment and founded the XFL football league, contributed a total of $7.2 million to two pro-Trump super PACs during his 2016 campaign. She left April 12, to become the chair of one of the main pro-Trump super PACs. Apparently, small businesses aren’t her thing.

Because of the historic turnover within his cabinet, the president has his hands full filling vacancies. In addition to those caused by the many firings and resignations of his cabinet members, he’s had to hire six communication directors, five national security advisers, three chiefs of staff, two press secretaries and several defense attorneys.

And, just recently, Kristjen Nielson, head of Homeland Security resigned. Undersecretary for Management Claire Grady was in line to take her place, but the president forced Grady to resign so he could appoint U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan as acting secretary. The president determined that McAleenan will be tougher on those dangerous, terrifying mothers, fathers and children from Central America who are seeking refuge from violence and starvation.

If things keep going the way they are in this slimiest swamp of all, Americans with a conscience will be seeking refuge in other countries, too.

Pat Nash has lived in the Baraboo area, off and on, for more than 35 years. Contact her at


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