Mr Exxon

Speaking of corruption, conflicts of interest, ethics, plutocrats – the Times reported a couple of weeks ago on how that whole tangle is slowing down the vetting of Trump’s cabinet o’ billionaires.

Senator Tom Carper of Delaware, the top Democrat on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, sent letters to the top ethics officials at 17 government agencies, asking if they had been in touch with officials of the Trump transition, whether they had received financial disclosure statements, and whether any Trump pick “refused to provide any information that you believe is necessary to conduct a conflicts analysis as required by law.”

“Given the large and complex financial holdings and boundless, serious potential for conflicts of interest,” Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York, said in an email, “these nominees need to turn over all relevant financial and background information so that senators can thoroughly review their record before going forward with any hearings.”

Several of Mr. Trump’s cabinet picks would be among the wealthiest public servants in modern history. That alone presents a significant financial-vetting challenge to Senate Republicans, who hope to begin confirmation hearings in a few weeks. Mr. Trump’s selection process — begun, unlike that of most predecessors, after his election rather than before — may have added to the challenge of moving quickly now.

“They need to step on the gas and get it done,” said Richard Painter, a law professor at the University of Minnesota who served as chief ethics counsel to President George W. Bush. “They need to tell the Senate what they are going to do with their assets.”

Many Republicans seem wedded to the idea that rich=good and very rich=super-good, and that that’s pretty much all there is to it. Trump himself is far more wedded to that idea than he’s ever been to any mere woman.

Cabinet nominees undergo rigorous background checks by the F.B.I. and the Office of Government Ethics, as well as a complicated process involving the agencies they are nominated to run. This is to ensure that nominees have no financial conflicts of interest or outstanding tax matters that could later expose them to criminal prosecution.

If they have lots of $ that can take weeks or even months.

Many of Mr. Trump’s nominees come with a complex web of financial interests and investments. They include Mr. Tillerson; Steven Mnuchin, a former Goldman Sachs partner picked to head the Treasury; the billionaire investor Wilbur L. Ross Jr., chosen as commerce secretary; and Betsy DeVos, the president-elect’s choice to run the Department of Education.

Lawmakers have already raised questions about Mr. Tillerson’s seeming reluctance to turn over his personal financial information. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee has tentatively set Jan. 11 for the start of Mr. Tillerson’s confirmation hearing.

In keeping with longstanding committee precedent, it has not asked Mr. Tillerson to provide his tax returns, Senator Corker said. “By all accounts, Mr. Tillerson is currently ahead of schedule in providing information to the committee,” he added. “He already has submitted a completed nominee questionnaire and will soon submit an extensive financial disclosure.”

But Mr. Cardin voiced the fears of some Democrats that Mr. Tillerson and other nominees — and Republican committee chairmen — may take their cues from Mr. Trump’s unusual decision not to release his own tax returns.

“I think it is an important part of vetting this candidate because he has never made public disclosures of this type, as he has worked at Exxon Mobil for his entire career and has never been in public service,” Mr. Cardin wrote on Thursday in a letter to committee Democrats. “Mr. Tillerson was actively engaged with many foreign governments that could become relevant if confirmed as secretary of state. The Senate has a responsibility to review all relevant documents during the confirmation process.”

Nothing has changed since then. The Democrats want Tillerson to show his tax returns, the Republicans say no he doesn’t have to. Mr Exxon will be running the State Department.

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