Trump Nominees’ Complex Finances Slow Vetting Process

The Office of Government Ethics last week assembled a progress report comparing the Trump administration’s rate of nominations with those of the Obama administration eight years ago. It’s not a favorable picture for the White House and suggests the new administration has a long way to go before it will be fully staffed.

The data, obtained by Max Stier, president of the nonprofit Partnership for Public Service, show that as of March 7, 2009, President Obama had submitted nominations, including full financial disclosure information, for 228 individuals, while President Trump had submitted only 63 by the same date this year, Stier said.

“The Trump team needs to focus not just on the nominations but on people coming through the pipeline. It’s a complicated process that includes getting through OGE,” Stier told Government Executive. Stier previously linked to charts produced by OGE in an essay in Politico on the topic on Monday, but the graphics show only trends without the numbers, which Stier provided to Government Executive.

Equally dramatic was the contrast between the Trump and Obama administrations in terms of complexity of the nominees’ financial disclosure reports, which helps explain why it will likely take much longer for Trump’s nominees to make it through the process. OGE reviewers divide the individual cases into four categories, based roughly on wealth: simple, moderate, complex and extremely complex. In the last category, “Only the most experienced financial disclosure reviewers can handle reports at this level, and the ethics review usually requires a team of OGE employees,” the document said. “The ethics review cannot be completed without the direct involvement of OGE’s managers or leadership.”

Pie charts produced by OGE show that the portion of Trump nominees’ financial disclosure materials that are deemed complex or extremely complex more than doubled with Trump nominees, while those classified as simple or moderate were less than half what what they were for the Obama nominees.

“Trump is right: There are too many political jobs in the federal government. But he still needs people to run his administration—he can’t do it alone,” Stier wrote in Politico. The Partnership has been offering transition guidance to the new administration but has documented its slow pace: only 24 of 511 key administration appointments have been made.

Stier told The New York Times on Monday, “The approach that the president took as a businessman and a candidate is simply not scalable to the challenge of filling out the rest of the government leadership.”

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