Former Industry Executives Hold Top Spots In Several Federal Departments

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Two years ago, former Montana Congressman Ryan Zinke rode on horseback down the streets of Washington to begin his first day as secretary of the interior. He resigned that post in December, no horse in sight, amid a series of ethics investigations. His replacement took over yesterday. David Bernhardt was the agency's No. 2. He's also a former oil lobbyist. Also this week, there's a new acting head of the Defense Department. He's a former executive at a major defense contractor. In fact, former industry folks hold the top spots in several federal departments. Eric Lipton is an investigative reporter at The New York Times. He's been tracking this. He's here in the studio. Welcome to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED.

ERIC LIPTON: Thank you.

CORNISH: Can you start by giving us a snapshot of where some of these cabinet secretaries are coming from and how their previous work intersects with what they're doing now?

LIPTON: The regulated have become the regulators. At Department of Interior, you have a guy whose clients included Statoil and Noble Oil who now sets policies over oil and gas in United States access to federal lands. At EPA, you have a guy who worked for a coal company that now sets policies that radically affect coal companies in the United States. At HHS, Health and Human Services, you have a guy that was a former pharmaceutical industry executive who now sets policies on how much the federal government ....

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