- Reuters/Jonathan Ernst
Republican lobbyist Richard Hohlt, who was recently appointed to the President’s Commission on White House Fellowships, is still a registered agent of Saudi Arabia and has earned roughly $430,000 from the government’s foreign ministry since January, the Center for Public Integrity reported on Thursday.
According to disclosures filed with the Department of Justice, Hohlt has been giving the Saudi government “advice on legislative and public affairs strategies.”
Hohlt’s appointment appears to contrast with President Trump’s earlier criticisms of lobbyists’ influence on presidential administrations and his promises to “drain the swamp.”
Shortly after taking office, Trump implemented a lifetime ban on administration officials lobbying the US on behalf of foreign governments. Since Hohlt is a part-time appointee, however, the ban does not apply to him. Trump has also issued ethics waivers to lobbyists to exempt full-time appointees from the ban.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 19, 2016
Appointees on the commission like Hohlt interview and recommend candidates to the president for the White House Fellows program, a one-year work placement as a paid assistant to top administration officials.
Hohlt told the Center for Public Integrity he disclosed his lobbying work to the Trump administration as he was being vetted for the post, and said he has never lobbied the Trump administration on behalf of Saudi Arabia.
“That is not my role,” he said.
Hohlt also said that he contacted congressional offices in May and June about an arms sale, and will disclose those contacts in his next disclosure report to the Department of Justice.
Hohlt is also a Trump donor, contributing $2,700 last August to his presidential campaign and $5,000 in September to his transition. Both donations were the maximum amounts Hohlt was allowed to give, and were contributed before Hohlt registered as a lobbyist for Saudi Arabia.