Michael Cohen is getting the headlines, but another former Trump aide has made his mark lobbying for the likes of Alphabet and Tesla

Key Points
  • Former Trump campaign advisor Scott Mason has represented Alphabet Inc., Tesla and Peabody Energy, among others, as they sought influence in Washington.
  • Mason, an employee of Holland & Knight, helped the firm reap lobbying fees totaling over $22 million in 2017.
  • Mason worked on the campaign as the director of congressional relations. He also assisted the Trump transition team.
President Donald Trump, flanked by Ford CEO James Hackett and White House chief economic adviser Larry Kudlow, meets with chief executives of major U.S. and foreign automakers at the White House in Washington, U.S. May 11, 2018.
Jonathan Ernst | Reuters

Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump's personal lawyer and fixer, is under fire for his recently revealed and highly lucrative consulting arrangements with corporate giants AT&T and Novartis, casting doubt on the president's pledges to "drain the swamp."

But while Cohen is in the spotlight, another Trump associate works for one of the most powerful lobbying firms in the country — representing the interests of large companies such as Google parent Alphabet and Tesla as they seek influence in Washington.

Shortly after Trump defeated Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election, Scott Mason, a member of the campaign and Trump's transition team, was hired as a senior policy advisor at Holland & Knight, a law firm that brought in a record amount of lobbying fees the year after the president's victory.

Mason told CNBC in an interview that his work with the Trump campaign was likely a factor in his getting hired at Holland & Knight. He said he believes he has helped his clients get their footing in the White House — not just because of his prior engagement with campaign officials, but also because the administration is open to working with businesses.

White House addresses AT&T payment to Michael Cohen

"This administration is much more business-friendly. They don't come into meetings with preconceived notions and have active experience in the business world," Mason said. "It's a Republican versus Democratic approach to the regulatory environment."

In 2017, with Mason as a new member of the firm's public policy and regulation group, Holland & Knight raked in $22 million, its most since 2009, President Barack Obama's first year in office, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

After Mason joined the firm, records reviewed by CNBC show that Holland & Knight acquired three clients: Google parent Alphabet Inc., electric car company Tesla and coal mining giant Peabody Energy, which, combined, have a market cap of over $900 billion.

The companies did not return requests for comment.

According to his company profile, Mason shapes up as an ideal representative for his clients and the firm as a whole if they wanted to gain access to lawmakers as well as the White House.

On the Trump campaign, he was the director of congressional relations, which allowed him to develop relationships with leaders on Capitol Hill on policy interest areas, including trade, tax reform, health-care reform, transportation, energy, financial services reform and numerous other issues, the company website says.

Mason's corporate connections

Mason, who worked in the government affairs office of hardware retail chain Lowe's before he joined the Trump team, lobbied on behalf of Alphabet last year on two bills linked to autonomous vehicle safety.

The House bill, the SELF DRIVE Act, passed in September 2017, and the firm brought in $60,000 for their lobbying efforts, led by Masons' team. In total that year, Holland & Knight raised $220,000 from the company. The legislation has yet to be voted on in the Senate.

Michael Cohen, personal attorney for U.S. President Donald Trump, arrives to appear before Senate Intelligence Committee staff as the panel investigates alleged Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S. September 19, 2017.
Jonathan Ernst | Reuters

His work for Tesla was to give the company a voice in the debate about implementing tariffs on solar power developers. His company charged $30,000 for that project.

One of his bigger gets for the firm was his assistance to Peabody Energy, which was looking to overcome some regulatory hurdles, according to numerous lobbying disclosure forms. By the time his work was complete, Holland & Knight had brought in $180,000 from the company.

Trump whisperers

Mason and Cohen aren't the only Trump-linked operators in the Washington influence sphere.

Other top Trump aides, including former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, made millions in the lobbying industry after working for Trump. They became known as "Trump Whisperers" for their familiarity with the president.

Lewandowski, for instance, founded his own firm, Avenue Strategies, shortly after the election, only to step down after calls for an investigation into whether he was officially registered as a lobbyist.

'Michael Cohen sold his ego'

The headlines about Cohen's dealings with companies seeking insight on the president's thinking and methods have cast an unflattering light on the lobbying and consulting industries in the Beltway. It has also generated a new wave of criticism toward Trump, who routinely hit the influence culture in Washington as "the swamp."

Cohen isn't a registered lobbyist, and Mason slammed him for his attempts to get in on the business.

"Michael Cohen sold his ego. There's no evidence that he can find Capitol Hill on the map. If you want to be an effective lobbyist you better be able to find it on the map," Mason said. "It's unfortunate what he did, and it tarnishes what we have been doing for 20 years."

Cohen did not immediately respond to CNBC's request for comment on Mason's criticism of him.

Randall Stephenson, chairman and chief executive officer of AT&T Inc., speaks during a Senate Judiciary Subcommittee hearing in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2016.
Andrew Harrer | Bloomberg | Getty Images

AT&T said Friday that Cohen reached out to the company. In turn, they paid him $600,000 for gaining insights into the new Trump administration, particularly with regard to the telecom giant's pending merger with media conglomerate Time Warner.

The Justice Department blocked the deal, and the matter went to court. The judge in the case has said he will have a decision by June 12.

In a letter obtained by CNBC, AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson told employees that it was a "big mistake" to hire Cohen. The company also made a corporate change, saying that its external and legal affairs group, which made the deal with Cohen, will now report directly to the company's legal counsel.

Novartis CEO Vasant Narasimhan also acknowledged his company made a mistake in hiring Cohen in a letter on Thursday. The health-care company has been coming under scrutiny for paying $1.2 million to Cohen in a yearlong contract.

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Cohen's fees far outstrip what has historically been paid to official lobbyists at firms such as Holland & Knight.

WATCH: AT&T-Cohen issue proves Trump 'draining the swamp'

White House: AT&T-Cohen issue proves Trump is 'draining the swamp'