Trump Opens His Tower to Big Lobbyists

He made lobbyists a chief target of his primary campaign—but now, as the general election picks up, they have many seats at the table at Trump Tower.

Photo Illustration by Brigette Supernova/The Daily Beast

Donald Trump will assemble a group of high-powered lobbyists Thursday, so they can pitch him on their special interests behind closed doors at Trump Tower.

The “Trump Leadership Council,” as it has been dubbed, was formed to provide the presumptive Republican nominee with guidance on various industries. Thursday’s multi-hour meeting will include whirlwind rounds of presentations by America’s powerful defense, energy, healthcare, manufacturing, finance, and commerce industries, according to a source involved with planning the meeting.

But this gathering signifies a distinct change in the Trump campaign.

The business mogul has previously spurned lobbyists: in the early days of his campaign he bragged that he didn’t need to raise money from powerful special interests. “I don’t want lobbyists. I don’t want special interests,” he told CBS in August of last year.

Trump “turned down $5 million last week from a very important lobbyist,” he said in August, “because there are total strings attached to a thing like that. He’s going to come to me in a year or two years and he’s going to want something for a country that he represents or for a company that he represents.”

But in recent months he has sung a different tune, hiring Paul Manafort as a senior aide, despite his work for the so-called torturers’ lobby and bringing a bevy of other politicos with lobbying connections into the fold.

Trump’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment.

Thursday’s meeting is also straight out of a Bernie Sanders supporters worst nightmare. Sanders, of course, has run a campaign opposed to the “millionaires and billionaires” that he believes have far too great a role in American democracy—and as such Trump’s outreach to lobbyists runs contrary to Trump’s outreach to the Vermont senator’s supporters.

“To all of those Bernie Sanders voters who have been left out in the cold by a rigged system of superdelegates, we welcome you with open arms,” Trump said Tuesday, as Hillary Clinton clinched the Democratic nomination.

The Aerospace Industries Association will lead the pitch on national security issues: founded nearly 100 years ago, the AIA represents many of the major aerospace and defense firms in the United States.

The association has been an outspoken opponent of defense spending cuts.

“Most members of the industry have decided that AIA was the most appropriate group to go do the briefing,” a defense industry source told The Daily Beast. The AIA declined to comment for this story.

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Joining the delegation will be representatives of some of the country’s most influential defense contractors, including Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and Raytheon.

“We were asked to participate and we will have a representative there,” said Gordon Johndroe, a spokesman for Boeing. “We interact with campaigns of both parties up and down the ballot to provide them our views on issues that impact our business and employees.”

Other large defense firms declined to comment on their participation—while some on condition of anonymity said that their organization chose not to directly participate, despite an invitation to do so.

There was some significant hesitancy among some defense firms to get involved—they didn’t want to signal any endorsement of Trump’s candidacy, but are positioning themselves to maintain influence should he beat Hillary Clinton for the presidency.

Their timidity is accentuated by how controversial Trump’s candidacy has been lately—most recently due to his racist remarks about an Indiana-born judge of Mexican ethnic heritage—but money transcends politics.

—with additional reporting by Olivia Nuzzi.