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Make Nepotism Great Again: 20 Families Got Jobs in Trump Administration
11.20.17 5:00 AM ET
Most people have heard of Ivanka and Jared, but the first family is far from the only group of relatives staffing the Trump administration.
A Daily Beast examination of public records reveals that there are at least 20 families, joined by either blood or marriage, in which multiple members hold some federal post or appointment. They include the families of some of Trump’s most prominent campaign supporters and agency officials, including one cabinet officer. The posts range from senior White House staff to more ceremonial and advisory positions.
A few of the most prominent cases came to the fore in recent weeks with the hiring of Eric Trump’s brother-in-law to be chief of staff at the Department of Energy and the nomination of Brett Talley to a federal judgeship in Alabama. In paperwork filed with the Senate Judiciary Committee, Talley failed to disclose that his wife is the chief of staff to the White House senior counsel Don McGahn—presenting a potential conflict of interest if the administration ever argues a case in Talley’s court.
But McGahn too has a direct relation in the administration. His wife, Sharron McGahn, was hired in May as a policy adviser to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. In March, Trump tapped former Ford Motor Company lawyer Jim Carroll to join McGahn’s team. Carroll has since moved over to the Office of Management and Budget, where he serves as general counsel. But before he did, the White House hired his son, James Carroll III—whose previous professional experience consisted of a stint as the sports editor of his college newspaper—as a staff assistant.
Such staffing choices aren’t necessarily novel for this administration. From John Adams to John Kennedy, U.S. presidents and their teams have drawn on families for high-level staffing. A lack of comprehensive records for previous administrations makes it difficult to gauge whether the Trump administration is staffed by more families than his predecessors’.
But Trump’s administration is, more than any since perhaps Kennedy’s, defined by blood relations, with daughter Ivanka Trump and son-in-law Jared Kushner occupying senior posts and other members of the family, including sons Don Jr. and Eric and daughter-in-law Lara Trump, serving as prominent public faces of the president’s political and business arms. And the degree to which other families supply the administration with top talent only further illustrates the insularity of the current group controlling the levers of power in Washington, D.C.
Though not technically a federal employee, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani serves as an informal adviser to the president. In March, his son Andrew joined the White House Office of Public Liaison as associate director after his professional golfing career petered out. The younger Giuliani’s LinkedIn page listed him as a former sales intern at investment firm CapRok.
As secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos is one of the administration’s most senior officials. But her family has also provided tremendous financial support for the president and the Republican Party, shelling out more than $200 million in Republican campaign contributions. Donors are frequently rewarded with administration posts and the DeVos’ were no different. In September, Dick Devos Jr., Betsy’s husband, was appointed to the Federal Aviation Administration’s Management Advisory Council. The next month, Pamella DeVos, Betsy’s sister-in-law, landed a spot on the advisory board for the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. DeVos’ brother, Erik Prince, the founder of notorious military contractor Blackwater, was also said to be informally advising Trump’s incoming administration after last year’s election.
Other intra-family administration posts have been more prominent and filled more direct policy-making roles. Often, these appointments have illustrated another ongoing trend in the Trump administration: the tasking of high-level officials to regulate or oversee industries in which they formerly worked.
Former House Financial Services Committee Oversight Counsel, Uttah Dhillon, was appointed as a senior assistant to the president in January. In June, his wife Janet Dhillon was tapped to be an Equal Employment Opportunity commissioner, which puts her on a body that previously took enforcement actions against at least two of her former employers, United Airlines (PDF) and JCPenny, for allegedly discriminatory action that took place while she served in legal roles for the companies.
Pamela Patenaude, Trump’s deputy secretary of Housing and Urban Development, didn’t work in industry. But she led the J. Ronald Terwilliger Foundation, which promotes U.S. housing policy reforms. When she was nominated in April, her daughter Meghan was already a deputy assistant for scheduling to Vice President Mike Pence. By the time she was confirmed to the HUD post in September, another of her daughters, Caitlin Patenaude, had been hired as a policy adviser at the Department of Health and Human Services.
Other Trump administration families appear to have followed their principals into the federal government. Sisters Millan and Sydney Hupp both worked on Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt’s campaign for Oklahoma attorney general. Sydney Hupp is now Pruitt’s executive scheduler, and her sister is EPA’s director of scheduling and advance.
Jennifer Pavlik likewise followed her former boss into the administration. She was Pence’s chief of staff in the Indiana governor’s mansion, and now serves as the vice president’s deputy chief of staff. She joined the administration in January, and a few months later her husband followed. Brian Pavlik, a former concessions program manager for the Indiana State Parks system, was hired as a special assistant to the National Parks Service.
At least one familial Trump official is no longer in the job. A few months after former White House adviser Sebastian Gorka joined the administration, his wife, Katharine Gorka, landed a job at the Department of Homeland Security. She remains in that post, but her husband was unceremoniously ousted in August.
As she continues advising high-level government officials, Sebastian Gorka has been relegated to an advisory position at a group run by “Pizzagate” conspiracy theorists. He was recently pictured parking his car on a sidewalk in Virginia.
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