The Trump administration has a penchant for hiring lobbyists to work in areas where they previously represented industry, and continuing with that theme, corn syrup industry lobbyist Kailee Tkacz joined the U.S. Department of Agriculture to advise the Secretary on dietary guidelines for Americans.
Though Tkacz received an ethics waiver to participate in the role, the Trump administration does not always abide such requirements.
White House counsel Donald McGahn issued the waiver last August:
“I hereby waive the requirements of paragraph 7 of the Ethics Pledge to Ms. Kailee Tkacz to allow her to advise the Secretary of Agriculture and other senior Department officials with respect to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans process. I have determined that it is in the public interest to grant this limited waiver because of Ms. Tkacz’s expertise in the process by which the Dietary Guidelines for Americans are issued every five years.”
Tkacz was director of food policy for the Corn Refiners Association, a trade group for corn syrup manufacturers, for two years before immediately leaving for the Trump administration in July 2017, according to her LinkedIn profile. Before that, she lobbied for the Snack Food Association and the National Grocers Association. Prior to her lobbying days, she spent a year as a research analyst on tax policy at the American Legislative Exchange Council, a group of corporations and conservative lawmakers that work together to craft business-friendly model legislation, and a year at the Charles Koch Institute, named after its billionaire founder and the CEO and part-owner of the global fossil fuel and materials conglomerate Koch Industries.
President Donald Trump relaxed ethics rules surrounding lobbyist after taking office, but the administration has flouted the rules entirely in some cases.
According to Craig Holman, a lobbyist on campaign finance and governmental ethics for the watchdog Public Citizen, less surprising than the conflict itself is that the Trump administration sought a waiver for Tkacz in the first place.
“The White House Counsel has routinely disregarded Trump’s ethics executive order, even to the point of not bothering to issue waivers where conflicts clearly exist and choosing simply to ignore the ethics rules altogether.”
In a June 2017 report, Holman identified 32 lobbyists appointed to Trump administration posts who oversee the same specific issue area on which they had lobbied within the last two years, in apparent violation of the ethics order.