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Manufacturers, Wall Street getting Trump’s ear in first 100 days

Politics 27 Apr 2017
Manufacturers, Wall Street getting Trump’s ear in first 100 days

By Jason Lange | WASHINGTON

WASHINGTON Manufacturers and Wall Street have led the quest for business access to President Donald Trump in his first 100 days in office, with media companies and Silicon Valley seldom entering the presidential bubble, a Reuters review found.

Since inauguration day on Jan. 20, top executives from at least 186 companies have visited with Trump or senior advisers at the White House or on presidential trips, including those to Mar-a-Lago, the private, seaside Florida club where he spends many weekends.

Some of the meetings have been reported in the press. But Reuters analyzed more than 900 White House press pool reports to give the first big picture view, albeit an incomplete one, of who has had the most and least success at bending the president's ear.

Such access can be crucial for companies, with Trump regularly passing judgment and making proposals on business issues such as trade, taxes, immigration and regulation.

The review showed Trump listening closely to some segments of Corporate America, though perhaps neglecting the dynamic technology and entertainment sectors, both powerful U.S. export industries.

Tim Cook, CEO of Apple Inc (AAPL.O), and other tech leaders met with Trump before his inauguration.

Access sometimes means influence, but it was likely too soon to tell, after less than 100 days, whether Trump's actions have disproportionately favored big manufacturers and Wall Street.

Industrial power-houses have led the way on access, including companies with the clout to make significant hiring decisions: Ford Motor Co (F.N) CEO Mark Fields has met with Trump at least four times; General Motors (GM.N) CEO Mary Barra, at least four times; and Boeing (BA.N) representatives, at least three times.

The Reuters review helps fill a blank in the Trump record that opened in mid-April when he put the White House visitor logs off-limits to the public. They had been mostly public under Obama.

Transparency advocates have warned that Trump's decision will make it harder to hold him accountable.

"A public record of who has the president's ear is more important than it has ever been," said John Wonderlich, executive director of the Sunlight Foundation, a nonprofit good-government advocacy group.

The review showed about half of the companies that have made it into the Trump inner circle through April 21, day 92 of his presidency, were manufacturers or financial firms – asset managers, insurers and banks ranging from Wall Street giants such as Citigroup (C.N) to small community banks.

Financier Stephen Schwarzman, who chairs a presidential advisory forum of business leaders, is CEO of the Blackstone Group (BX.N), the largest manager of private equity and real estate assets. He was spotted by the press pool aboard Air Force 1 on Feb. 3 when the president was traveling to Mar-a-Lago. Schwarzman also attended at least three meetings with Trump and other executives.

Almost all of Trump's meetings were group encounters with 10 or more executives sitting down with the president and White House officials in events billed as listening sessions, roundtable discussions or town halls.

A few were more intimate encounters, such as on March 18, when Ike Perlmutter, CEO of Marvel Entertainment, a Walt Disney Corp. (DIS.N) subsidiary, met with the president in Mar-a-Lago before having dinner with the president, first lady Melania Trump and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross.

Perlmutter, however, was one of few executives from media companies seen by pool reporters in meetings with Trump.

Information technology firms, which enjoyed significant access to former President Barack Obama, have had less access to Trump than legacy manufacturers such as auto and steel makers. IBM (IBM.N) CEO Ginni Rometty attended three meetings with Trump, but was one of only a few CEOs from big tech firms seen at the White House.

Manufacturers and financiers also enjoyed access to the White House under Obama, according to a Reuters review in December 2015 of White House visitor logs.

The recent Reuters review is not comprehensive since the press pool, though dogged and alert, may have missed some of Trump's meetings with business leaders.

The pool is a rotation of journalists from several outlets, including Reuters, who follow Trump and get briefings from White House officials on some, but not all of his meetings.

(Reporting by Jason Lange in Washington; Additional reporting by Noel Randewich in San Francisco; Editing by Kevin Drawbaugh and Dan Grebler)

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