Democracy Forward Sues Trump Administration for Refusing to Reveal Secret Members and Financial Conflicts of “Regulatory Reform Task Forces”

Suit Follows Administration’s Release of  “Regulatory Plan and Agenda” Outlining Rollback of Protections for American Workers & Families

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Democracy Forward filed suit today against the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) after the agency refused to reveal the names of all members of President Trump’s “Regulatory Reform Task Forces.” The suit follows the release of the Administration’s “Regulatory Plan and Agenda” earlier today, and their continued failure to disclose conflicts of task force members who worked to roll back critical health, workplace, and environmental protections across federal agencies.

From what little is known publicly, the Trump Administration has staffed these regulatory task forces with former industry lobbyists and other conflicted individuals. Given the Administration continues to operate these task forces in secret, Democracy Forward filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) suit to uncover the full extent to which task force members are rolling back regulations to benefit their former industries.

“Transparency is a touchstone of U.S. law and regulatory process and today’s reports make clear President Trump has ignored that foundational legal requirement,” said Democracy Forward Executive Director Anne Harkavy. “Instead, the President has empowered ex-lobbyists to enrich their former industries by gutting protections for American workers and families behind closed doors.”

Upon taking office, President Trump announced the creation of deregulatory task forces across federal agencies and also directed federal agencies to remove two regulations for every new one issued. To date, the task forces have already rolled back regulations that directly benefit industries with ties to the few task force members that are publicly known. Examples of these conflicts of interest include:

    • Department of Transportation: Daniel Elwell, a former member of the Transportation Regulatory Reform Task Force, was previously a lobbyist for American Airlines, and an executive with Airlines for America, a trade association for major airlines which has applauded the Administration’s decision to roll back a rule requiring the disclosure of passenger baggage fees.
    • Department of Education: Robert Eitel, a member of the Department of Education’s Regulatory Reform Task Force, was formerly the top lawyer for Bridgepoint Education, a for-profit college company reportedly facing multiple government investigations. While Eitel has served on the task force, the Department of Education rolled back the Borrower Defense Rule, which cracks down on predatory practices by for-profit colleges.
    • Department of Agriculture: Rebeckah Adcock, the leader of the USDA’s Regulatory Reform Task Force, was previously employed by the pesticide industry’s main trade group, CropLife America, and has reportedly met with lobbyists from her prior employer.

Democracy Forward’s FOIA request was filed on November 2, 2017, and sought records concerning the identities of regulatory task force members, recusals and related ethics waivers, and involvement of political appointees in the operation of the task forces. OMB failed to respond to the request, as required by federal law.

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Democracy Forward is a nonprofit legal organization that scrutinizes Executive Branch activity across policy areas, represents clients in litigation to challenge unlawful actions, and educates the public when the White House or federal agencies break the law.

Press Contact
Charisma Troiano
(202) 701-1781
ctroiano@democracyforward.org

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