Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump gives a speech outlining his vision for tax reform at his skyscraper on Fifth Avenue on September 28, 2015 in New York City.
Andrew Burton/Getty Images
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump gives a speech outlining his vision for tax reform at his skyscraper on Fifth Avenue on September 28, 2015 in New York City.
Now playing
02:20
Trump team announces lobbying rule
Now playing
05:18
Coinbase CFO: We're an on-ramp to the crypto economy
Now playing
05:18
Anderson Cooper explains how he overcomes being shy
CNN
Now playing
02:12
'Too dangerous to do anymore': Sacha Baron Cohen on Borat
Christopher Hamilton
Now playing
01:01
Volcanologist shares what he prefers to cook on lava flows
John Avlon 0413 Wallace
CNN
John Avlon 0413 Wallace
Now playing
03:31
Avlon compares Tucker Carlson's comments to George Wallace
Kristina Barboza
Now playing
03:09
Grieving mom's advice to other families: You can try to help, support and love
screengrab hong kong oscars
IMDB / Field of Vision
screengrab hong kong oscars
Now playing
02:50
Hong Kong won't air Oscars for the first time since 1968
Now playing
01:27
See the first community of 3D-printed homes
Burlington, MA Headquarters
Nuance
Burlington, MA Headquarters
Now playing
01:34
Microsoft to buy AI company Nuance
Now playing
02:50
Sleep doctor tells Anderson Cooper how long a power nap should be
WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 01: Chairman of the Federal Reserve Jerome Powell testifies during a Senate Banking Committee hearing about the quarterly CARES Act report on Capitol Hill December 1, 2020 in Washington, DC.  Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin also testified at the hearing. (Photo by Susan Walsh-Pool/Getty Images)
Susan Walsh/Pool/Getty Images
WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 01: Chairman of the Federal Reserve Jerome Powell testifies during a Senate Banking Committee hearing about the quarterly CARES Act report on Capitol Hill December 1, 2020 in Washington, DC. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin also testified at the hearing. (Photo by Susan Walsh-Pool/Getty Images)
Now playing
02:06
Fed chief: The economy is about to grow more quickly
"Saturday Night Live" / NBC
Now playing
01:47
'SNL' sees Minnesota news anchors take on the Derek Chauvin trial
Now playing
02:23
Pubs in England reopen after months of lockdown
DORAL, FLORIDA - AUGUST 27:  A Trump National Doral sign is seen at the golf resort owned by U.S. President Donald Trump's company on August 27, 2019 in Doral, Florida. President Trump said the United States may host the next G7 gathering at the golf resort. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
Joe Raedle/Getty Images
DORAL, FLORIDA - AUGUST 27: A Trump National Doral sign is seen at the golf resort owned by U.S. President Donald Trump's company on August 27, 2019 in Doral, Florida. President Trump said the United States may host the next G7 gathering at the golf resort. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
Now playing
03:46
'That is obviously false': CNN reporter on Trump supporter's attempt to rewrite history
Now playing
03:35
Why CrossFit CEO wants gyms included in infrastructure bill

Story highlights

Trump has proposed a five-year ban on lobbying after leaving his administration

Washington has plenty of ways to get around being called a "lobbyist"

(CNN) —  

Reformers elated by President-elect Donald Trump’s new tough ban on lobbying after serving in his administration can just as quickly find a reason to be disappointed.

That’s because they’ve heard and seen this before.

“I am in this race to tell the corporate lobbyists that their days of setting the agenda in Washington are over,” then-Sen. Barack Obama said in November 2007. His administration put a two-year ban on lobbying post-service.

In 2016, Trump channeled the same anger against Washington and is proposing to build on the same policies Obama instituted.

“Every day you turn on the nightly news, you hear about how some self-interested banker or some Washington insider says they oppose the Trump campaign. That’s because I don’t need them. I don’t want them. I’m going to do what’s good for you,” Trump said in Akron, Ohio, in August. “Or some big-time lobbyist says they oppose Donald Trump’s campaign. Because I don’t want the lobbyists. I’ve had plenty of lobbyists. They do a good job. They give you whatever you want. I wear their opposition as a badge of honor.”

The announcement the President-elect would ban administration officials from returning to lobbying for five years after they leave government sent shockwaves through the influence industry on Thursday, even if the exact definition of “lobbyist” wasn’t given.

The move, along with a lifetime ban on lobbying for foreign governments, immediately introduces another disincentive for an administration already struggling to retain top talent and raises the prospect of a vibrant lobbying industry that hums along as well as ever — but underground and hidden from disclosure, not eradicated.

The chaser: as under Obama, the swamp need not be drained, merely sprayed with Febreze.

“The swamp is so deep in Washington that simply saying that there are some people who can have jobs in the administration but can’t cash in for five years is such a weak response to the pretty significant message that America just delivered last week,” said David Donnelly of Every Voice, one of the many good-government groups split by the new Trump guidelines. “If this is the only thing he did, they will see that nothing has changed.”

Transition officials said Wednesday that they would expand upon Obama’s executive order which forbid administration officials from registering as lobbyists for two years after serving him, a rule that many influence-peddlers today say has done little to actually curb ethics breaches or impact K Street. The Trump aides added Thursday that the new policy would apply to officials looking to work for overseas governments, too, for their entire lives.

Yet the worry among lobbying officials on Thursday wasn’t that they would suddenly be out of a line of work. The five-year ban would merely redouble their resourcefulness as they search for workarounds that allow them to not technically classify as “lobbyists” once leaving the administration but rather to occupy some other very similar role in Washington officialdom.

“People will escape: ‘I’m a grassroots person.’ ‘I’m a digital person.’ ‘I’m this or that.’ But you’re actually doing the same thing I’m doing,” said Paul Miller, a leader for a Washington lobbying trade group. “If you implement this, you’re going to have a chilling effect.”

Miller said he was already fielding conversations on Thursday from concerned lobbyists worried about the emergence of a “shadow lobbying community” that operates free from disclosure laws meant to shine a spotlight on how influence is created and wielded in Washington. Miller said he had contacted Trump Tower on behalf of the lobbying industry but had not fetched a response.

He chalked the move up to pure politics.

“I have to question the motives. You had a campaign that at the 11th hour in October decided to pull out ethics reform,” Miller argued, who said his worries spiked this week when the transition team purged its corps of lobbyists, even though they sorely needed the experience. “You better not be skeptical. You better take this as a real threat — not just this. We are a target.”

Questions remain outstanding: How will officials enforce a five-year-ban that theoretically could outlast a one-term president? Will the administration monitor and penalize lobbyists who de-register in order to avoid the stricter guidelines? And how will Trump learn from Obama, who came into Washington preaching hope and change but largely disappointed ethics-reformers who dreamed of a gridlock-free government?

“They were worthy of praise, but at the same time it became pretty apparent over the next eight years that there were big holes,” said Paul Ryan, a prominent Washington ethics reformer, of the Obama platform points. “I would not call this cosmetic. I would say this is one small step.”