Fracking billionaire and Trump donor Harold Hamm was among an elite group of oil and gas executives who met with the president in early April to press for federal help, including access to big loans for businesses hurt by the coronavirus pandemic. It prompted Trump afterwards to promise to “make funds available to these very important companies”.
Major Trump ally Tommy Fisher, who last year landed a $400m Army Corps of Engineers contract to build 31 miles of Trump’s border wall in Arizona, in April received another $7m from the army – despite an active investigation by a Pentagon watchdog into allegations of favoritism after Trump reportedly pushed for Fisher.
Another big Trump donor, Mike Lindell, the chief executive of MyPillow and the chair of Trump’s campaign in Minnesota, got red-carpet treatment from Trump at a press briefing in late March. Lindell then praised Trump, hailing him as “chosen by God” as the president touted the firm’s efforts to make thousands of face masks.
The president’s kid-glove treatment of the three Trump backers, who have donated well over $1m to help Trump and other Republican candidates try to win this fall, underscore how even during an unprecedented national crisis Trump’s priorities and campaign machine often tilt towards giving donors and political allies favors, access and publicity.
Numerous bosses of hotels, airlines and other sectors have lobbied Trump and cabinet officials during the pandemic. Watchdog groups say Trump’s close ties with top backers and donors from the oil patch and other sectors deserve close scrutiny, as more than $2.6tn in relief funds are doled out.
“The Trump administration’s dealings with these and other big donors highlight why we need stringent oversight to make sure that the hundreds of billions of dollars sloshing around benefits the American people, and not the president’s donors and political allies,” said Robert Maguire, the research director at the watchdog group Crew.
Hamm’s inclusion at the White House meeting with chiefs from giants ExxonMobil and Chevron was not a surprise: Hamm gave a major speech at the 2016 Republican convention, has been an informal energy adviser to Trump, and has opened his checkbook wide for the president.
Numerous bosses of hotels, airlines and other sectors have lobbied Trump and cabinet officials during the pandemic