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Trump’s Cabinet Choices Have Given A Lot Of Money To Senators

When the U.S. Senate decides next year whether to confirm Wilbur Ross as secretary of commerce, among the 100 senators voting on his nomination will be eight people whom Ross has supported with a combined $62,100 in campaign contributions since 1990.

When Andrew Puzder’s nomination to be secretary of labor goes before the Senate, it will be decided in part by 17 politicians whose campaigns he has supported with more than $150,000.

And when senators vote on Betsy DeVos, Donald Trump’s choice for secretary of education, the chamber will include 20 members whom she has supported over the years with contributions totaling $167,300.

An analysis of campaign-finance records by the Center for Responsive Politics, a research organization that tracks money in politics, found that of the 13 Cabinet picks Trump has made so far,1 seven have given a total of more than $455,000 since 1990 to support people who will serve in the next Senate, either directly to their campaigns or to outside groups backing them. The analysis comprises contributions since 1990 to people who will be in the Senate when it votes on the confirmations, including contributions toward earlier campaigns for federal offices such as for U.S. House.2

Education Betsy DeVos $167,300
Labor Andrew Puzder 151,659
Commerce Wilbur Ross 62,100
Transportation Elaine Chao 42,300
State Rex Tillerson 26,200
Treasury Steve Mnuchin 5,500
Health and Human Services Tom Price 200
Trump nominees’ contributions to senators who will vote on them

Includes contributions since 1990 to campaign committees, leadership PACs and outside groups

Source: Center for Responsive Politics

Some Trump picks for Cabinet-level positions — which are not officially part of the Cabinet but require Senate confirmation — have also given large sums to the politicans who will decide on their nominations. Linda McMahon, Trump’s pick to lead the Small Business Administration, for example, has contributed more than $650,000 to members of the incoming Senate since 1990.

Trump’s choices are certainly not the first to have contributed to people who later voted on their confirmations. Eric Holder, President Obama’s first attorney general, gave a total of $8,000 to the politicans who would eventually vote on his confirmation, according to Federal Election Commission records. Jeh Johnson, whom the Senate confirmed as secretary of homeland security in 2013, had given $13,000 to senators who voted on his nomination. But many of Trump’s Cabinet picks are wealthier and have less government experience than previous nominees, which means that several have long histories of political giving.


  1. He has not announced decisions on a secretary of veterans affairs or a secretary of agriculture.

  2. The totals comprise money given to candidates’ campaign committees; to leadership PACs, which politicians typically use to support other candidates; and outside groups, such as super PACs, which can raise unlimited amounts from contributors. The totals do not include contributions to joint fundraising committees or political parties.

Aaron Bycoffe is a computational journalist for FiveThirtyEight.