Industry lobbyists have enjoyed unprecedented access and leadership roles in the Trump administration, with the EPA and Department of Interior currently led by a former coal lobbyist and former oil lobbyist respectively. This pattern extends to other agencies, like the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), where senior officials used to lobby on the issues they now regulate.
CREW requested records from DHS, HUD and the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) that would show the extent of contacts between Chad Wolf, an official at DHS, and Michael Welch Dendas an official at HUD, and their former employers. If key decisions at these agencies are impacted by lobbyists and special interests who gain access through former employees now in government positions, then the public should know.
Before joining the Trump Administration as Chief of Staff at the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), Chad Wolf worked as a vice president at the lobbying firm Wexler Walker. During his tenure at the firm, Wolf lobbied TSA directly, and tried to persuade the agency to spend millions of dollars on a carry-on luggage screening device on behalf of an industry client. Wolf was later promoted to Deputy Chief of Staff and then Chief of Staff at DHS and then in February 2019, President Trump announced his intention to nominate Wolf to be the Under Secretary for Strategy, Policy and Plans at DHS. During his tenure at DHS, several of Wolf’s former lobbying firm colleagues have lobbied the agency.
Before joining HUD, Michael Welch Dendas was a senior manager with The Home Depot in the company’s government relations department, where his duties included “messaging and industry relations on Capitol Hill.” Home Depot maintains a grant program that works with HUD housing programs directed at veteran housing.
The requested records will shed light on the extent to which Wolf’s and Dendas’ former colleagues have lobbied their agencies during their tenure and how they responded. Ethics pledges prohibit officials from participating “personally and substantially in any particular matter” related to a former employer, so there is significant public interest in whether officials like Wolf and Dendas who are former lobbyists comply with the pledge.