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An Industry Group Says the Trump Administration Is Run “Like a Bad Family Owned Small Business” — And They Love It

A contractors trade association, in an internal presentation, mocks the president while praising him for cutting back on rules meant to protect workers.

What does American business really think of President Donald Trump?

One candid glimpse emerges in a pair of PowerPoint presentations delivered last year by top executives of the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC), one of the construction industry’s national trade groups.

Trump, the presentations state, is an “autocratic leader” who regularly “humiliates [his] senior team” and is running the administration “like a bad family owned small business.” One presentation quotes the president’s statement that infrastructure should be “easy” and follows it with a rhetorical eye-roll: “Really?????”

At the same time, the presentations make clear that the industry group views Trump as a godsend for their agenda of rolling back environmental and labor regulations.

Here’s how Jeff Shoaf, the group’s longtime chief lobbyist in Washington and now chief operating officer, put it in a July 2017 PowerPoint, which appears to have been inadvertently posted on the website of the organization’s Texas chapter:

AGC spokesman Brian Turmail told ProPublica that saying the administration is “run like a bad family owned business” wasn’t intended to be pejorative. “Since so many of our members are family owned small businesses,” he said, the language in the slide is “a way that makes it relatable to them. One of our jobs is to explain to our members what is happening in Washington, as we work on their behalf.” AGC says it represents more than 26,000 firms around the country.

Another slide, under the heading “Legislative Agenda,” lets a photograph summarize the group’s view:

The image of the dumpster fire, Shoaf said, referred to the Republicans’ failed attempts to repeal Obamacare last year.

Shoaf said he views the Trump administration as being “run more disruptively than shoddily. They’re not wedded to the normal talking points that either Barack Obama or George W. Bush came with.”

Following the descriptions of the administration’s dysfunction, the PowerPoint pivots to describing what it characterized as major successes in the construction industry’s “regulatory roll back” agenda since Trump entered office. “With President Trump in office, there are many Obama administration executive orders, rules, and other requirements in AGC’s crosshairs,” it says.

The group touts major victories in the form of repealed or delayed environmental and labor regulations:

A quick guide to the shorthand:

  • The “blacklisting” rule refers to President Obama’s “Fair Pay, Safe Workplaces” executive order that required companies bidding on federal contracts to disclose labor law violations. That rule has been repealed by the Trump administration.

  • The so-called Volks rule increased the ability of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to enforce requirements that employers keep records of injuries and illnesses. That rule has also been eliminated.

  • The silica regulation lowers the permissible exposure limit of silica dust that construction workers can be exposed to on the job. According to OSHA, inhaling silica can cause cancer and other fatal diseases. That regulation’s implementation was delayed but has since gone into effect.

  • The “GHG” rule is a Department of Transportation greenhouse gas regulation aimed at getting data on emissions from vehicles traveling on federally funded highways. The Trump administration initially delayed the rule’s implementation and has since started the process of repealing it entirely.

In a similar presentation delivered at a September conference, AGC CEO Stephen Sandherr also questioned Trump’s approach to an infrastructure package, which the construction industry strongly supports:

Turmail, the group’s spokesman, pointed to its recent statement praising the administration’s release of an infrastructure plan as “the start of what should be a timely, bipartisan and bicameral process to identify the best ways to fund and finance desperately needed improvements to our public infrastructure.”

Do you have information about the Trump administration and infrastructure? Contact Justin at [email protected] or via Signal at 774-826-6240.

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Justin Elliott

Justin Elliott is a ProPublica reporter covering politics and government accountability. To securely send Justin documents or other files online, visit our SecureDrop page.

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