WASHINGTON, D.C. — Democracy Forward filed suit against the Department of Commerce after the Trump Administration refused to reveal whether Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross used his personal email account to discuss the development of President Trump’s infrastructure proposal with his private business associates and financially conflicted friends.
Ross’s involvement in the Administration’s infrastructure push is rife with possible financial conflicts given his long-standing ties to the shipping industry and other potential beneficiaries. For example, as of late last year, Ross still had not divested from Navigator Holdings, an international shipping firm with ties to Vladimir Putin. Private companies like those held by Navigator stand to benefit from the President’s infrastructure policies.
“The Trump Administration’s infrastructure proposal is a blueprint for cronyism and Wilbur Ross is at the center of it,” said Democracy Forward Policy and Strategy Director Corey Ciorciari. “The American people deserve to know if President Trump and Secretary Ross have designed a plan to help steer taxpayer dollars to their friends and business partners.”
Ross played a key role in developing President Trump’s infrastructure plan and could receive extensive authority if the plan becomes law. For example, according to recent reports, the plan would allow the Department of Commerce to hand-pick projects that will receive millions of dollars in federal funding as chair of the plan’s “Transformative Projects Program.”
The lawsuit is part of Democracy Forward’s recently announced Infrastructure Accountability Initiative, a series of actions designed to hold the Trump Administration accountable for an infrastructure plan that is a blueprint for cronyism, threatening to enrich Trump’s friends at the expense of the American people.
The complaint was filed after the Department failed to provide any records in response to two Freedom of Information Act requests despite advising that the documents would be received by July 2017.
The suit was filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.
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.