During Donald Trump‘s presidential campaign, he touted his financial independence, stating that he would not be owned by donors or special interests the way establishment politicians might be. While it remains to be seen whether Trump’s policies in office will be influenced by his backers, he has been giving them significant access since his election, and choosing a number of them for cabinet positions, according to a report by Politico.
The report, which was based on Federal Election Commission records, shows that more than one third of the people who Trump took meetings with since winning the election gave significant donations to either his campaign or Republicans in general. The 73 donors reportedly gave a total of $1.7 million to Trump and groups that supported him, and more than $57 million to the GOP. On top of that, 38 percent of those who Trump has named to government positions so far have been big donors. Picking supporters for positions is nothing new, but the degree to which Trump is favoring his financial backers is, the report states.
Trump’s selection for Secretary of the Treasury, Steve Mnuchin, was his campaign’s chief fundraiser. The pick for heading the Small Business Administration, former WWE CEO Linda McMahon and her husband Vince are the largest donors to Trump’s foundation, and she gave $6 million to a super PAC that supported Trump. These are just two examples among several.
Trevor Potter, founder of the Campaign Legal Center told Politico that these picks could turn off voters who supported Trump. “The risk here is disillusionment by the voters who voted for change and are going to end up with a plutocracy,” Potter said.
However, giving donors jobs could be an expression of Trump’s loyalty without further promise to follow whatever advice they give him. It’s also possible that he prefers to surround himself with like-minded people who have been successful in business. After all, Trump’s pick for Secretary of State, Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson, donated to Jeb Bush, not Trump. Still, the optics could result in concern. Even if the reality isn’t that donors are influencing Trump’s actions, the fact that they’re in position to do so could be enough to shape public perception.