The Trump administration has stacked the deregulation teams with political appointees, some of whom may be reviewing rules their former employers sought to weaken or kill.
When President Donald Trump ordered federal agencies to form teams to dismantle government regulations, the Transportation Department turned to people with deep industry ties.
One appointee had previously lobbied the department on behalf of American Airlines. Another held executive roles for several electric and hybrid car companies regulated by the department. A third was a lawyer who represented United Airlines in regulatory matters.
The three appointees have been identified by The New York Times and ProPublica in a continuing effort to track members of the deregulation teams. The appointments, previously unreported, follow a pattern identified by the two news organizations: By and large, the Trump administration has stacked the teams with political appointees, some of whom may be reviewing rules their former employers sought to weaken or kill.
A full vetting of industry connections has been difficult because some agencies have declined to provide information about the appointees — not even their names.
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The lack of transparency has concerned several top Democratic members of Congress who serve on committees that oversee regulatory matters. In a letter to the White House on Monday, they called on the administration to release the names of all regulatory team members as well as documents relating to their potential conflicts of interest.
“It is unacceptable for federal agencies to operate in such a clandestine and unaccountable manner especially when the result could be the undoing of critical public health and safety protections,” Reps. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, John Conyers Jr. of Michigan, Gerald Connolly of Virginia and David Cicilline of Rhode Island wrote in the letter.
The congressmen cited a recent investigation by The Times and ProPublica revealing that members of the deregulation teams have included lawyers who represented businesses in cases against government regulators, staff members of political dark-money groups and employees of industry-funded organizations opposed to environmental rules.
Since the publication of that investigation this past month, the news organizations have identified more than a dozen other appointees through interviews, public records and…