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Trump secrecy moves threaten his ‘drain the swamp’ pledge

WASHINGTON (AP) — The leader of a bipartisan good-government group, Zach Wamp, headed to the White House last week to ask whether President Donald Trump’s “drain the swamp” slogan would ever be more than a throwaway campaign slogan. One of the president’s closest aides, Steve Bannon, assured him it’s a priority.

Bannon said he “agrees with the concept that Washington is rigged,” said Wamp, a former Republican congressman. “He said he just needs to figure out what to do about it.”

Yet within 48 hours of the visit, the White House announced the end of an Obama administration practice aimed at greater transparency in government: It would no longer release the names of visitors to the executive mansion.

It was another step away from the goal of “drainage,” curbing the outsized influence of Washington powerbrokers. Then, a filing this week showed that the president raised a record $107 million for his inauguration, much of it from companies and people who do business with the government.

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Trump also has brought scores of special-interest players into government. And he has yet to push any proposals to tighten campaign finance or lobbying disclosure rules.

Trump’s boldest anti-swamp move — a January executive order limiting the lobbying of outgoing officials — has already been undermined by a waiver he granted to at least one departing employee. The administration says it will never share information about when or why it makes those decisions, another change from the Obama era.

“What they do on ‘drain the swamp’ is very much to-be-determined,” Wamp said. “I think — at least I hope — my stop there last week was a reminder that these things matter.”

Bannon did not respond to requests for comment, and the White House says it considers Trump’s early bureaucracy-slimming moves to be part of its drain-the-swamp work. At a rally last month in Louisville, Kentucky, Trump re-upped his vow: “We are going to drain the swamp of government corruption in Washington, D.C., and we are going to keep our promises, all of the promises that we made.”

Indeed, “drain the swamp” is scrawled on one of chief strategist Bannon’s white boards documenting those campaign pledges. Rep. Ken Buck, a Colorado Republican who wrote a book about the corrupting influence that fundraising has on Congress (titled, conveniently, “Drain the Swamp”), said Trump has “surrounded himself with people who want to find solutions.” He is optimistic that the president will make good on his word but argues that a mile-long White House to-do list means it’ll take time.

Democrats are skeptical Trump will ever deliver.

“There’s a huge gap between what he’s said going back to his campaign days, and what he’s done,” said Rep. John Sarbanes, a Maryland Democrat who has introduced several bills aimed at reducing money in politics….

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