Watchdog: Trump DOT violated anti-lobbying laws with retweet

Watchdog: Trump DOT violated anti-lobbying laws with retweet
© Getty Images

A federal watchdog says the Trump administration violated anti-lobbying laws in retweeting a message in support of a bill privatizing air traffic control.

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) concluded that the Department of Transportation (DOT) violated federal law when it liked and retweeted a July post from Steve Forbes urging Congress to pass legislation to separate air traffic control from the federal government. The tweet also included a link to a website allowing people to automatically send an email to their representative on the issue.

The DOT eventually untweeted and unliked the post, after it was flagged by the agency’s legal office.

“Although DOT was not the author of the tweet, DOT, by retweeting and liking it, not only endorsed the message, but also created agency content,” the GAO said.


Under current law, federal dollars are prohibited from being used to “pay for any personal service, advertisement, telegram, telephone, letter … intended or designed to influence in any manner a Member of Congress, a jurisdiction, or any official of any government, to favor, adopt, or oppose, by vote or otherwise, any legislation.”

The DOT said in a statement that it did not agree with the watchdog's findings.

“We disagree with GAO’s conclusion and will be responding in accordance with OMB requirements," a spokesperson said. 

House Democrats have been raising concerns since this summer that DOT may have improperly lobbied Congress and other organizations on the legislative effort to overhaul air traffic control.

They claim at least four DOT political appointees have contacted lawmakers and aviation or airport association representatives to build support for the bill, either through emails, written materials or phone calls.

House Republicans have been pushing the spin-off plan, which President TrumpDonald TrumpWendy Sherman takes leading role as Biden's 'hard-nosed' Russia negotiator Senate needs to confirm Deborah Lipstadt as antisemitism envoy — Now Former acting Defense secretary under Trump met with Jan. 6 committee: report MORE endorsed earlier this year.

But the controversial legislation has remained stalled on Capitol Hill, which forced lawmakers to pass a short-term reauthorization of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in September.