Taser Lobbyist Quietly Appointed to Top Immigration Enforcement Job

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Thomas Blank, a former lobbyist and Republican official, was recently appointed to serve as the chief of staff to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the agency charged with investigating and enforcing immigration-related matters for the Department of Homeland Security.

There was no public press release and no announcement to mark the senior appointment. Rather, the only official acknowledgement of Blank’s new post was found through a quiet update to the ICE leadership website this week.

“Thomas Blank’s appointment as Chief of Staff for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement was finalized on Wednesday, July 12,” said ICE Assistant Director for Public Affairs Liz Johnson, in a statement to The Intercept.

“Information about his appointment was then sent internally to staff and posted on the ICE.gov website, as is standard practice. Since Mr. Blank did not represent clients with ICE interests and never lobbied the agency, there are no conflict of interest concerns with Mr. Blank’s former employment.”

Blank arrived to ICE after working for over a decade as a corporate lobbyist, helping corporate contractors secure business before the agency he now leads. As the vice chairman of the lobby shop Wexler & Walker, Blank “established the firm’s growing Homeland Security Practice by building a base of clients with policy and business development interests on Capitol Hill, in The White House, and before the Departments of Homeland Security and Transportation.”

Blank’s ICE biography makes a passing reference to his 12-year lobbying career, noting that he “provided private sector consulting services in business development primarily for the security technology industry.”

Records show Blank attempted to influence lawmakers and homeland security officials on behalf of a number of government contractors. His clients included firms such as the company formerly known as Taser International, the manufacturer of electronic shock weapons used by law enforcement as an alternative to firearms. Another former Blank client, Assuretec Inc., specializes in facial recognition and identity authentication.

Notably, Chad Wolf, another prominent Homeland Security lobbyist appointed this year by the Trump administration to the Department of Homeland Security, was Blank’s colleague on a number of lobbying campaigns. The pair registered to lobby on behalf of Analogic Corp., a baggage screening company, which sought a bid for lucrative contracts with the Transportation Security Administration.

Read the entire article at https://theintercept.com/2017/07/13/taser-lobbyist-quietly-appointed-to-top-immigration-enforcement-job/