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Despite progressive objections, officials with corporate ties slide into incoming Biden administration

Andrew Trunsky, DCNF

President-elect Joe Biden has tapped multiple corporate executives to fill various government openings over the objections of numerous progressive organizations.

Groups including Demand Justice, Public Citizen and the Sunrise Movement urged Biden in a November letter to “decline to nominate or hire corporate executives, lobbyists and prominent corporate consultants,” referencing Democrats’ staunch opposition to similar nominations from President Donald Trump.

“The [corporate-government] revolving door limits the trust Americans have in government and has time and time again led to bad policy outcomes,” the letter adds. “We urge you to take advantage of this unique and historic moment in American history to shut the revolving door and rebuild that trust.”

Biden’s advisory team helping his transition with White House’s Office of Management and Budget, however, includes executives from Amazon Web Services, Lyft, Airbnb. Additional advisors have ties to WestExec Advisors, a corporate consulting firm co-founded by Antony Blinken, his nominee for secretary of state, and Michèle Flournoy, who was floated as a possible secretary of defense.

“This puts us at a state of high alarm,” Jeff Hauser, who runs the Revolving Door Project, a group dedicated to limiting the appointments of lobbyists and corporate executives in government, told The New York Times in November.

A spokesman for Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In addition to the corporate influence at OMB, Steve Ricchetti, one of Biden’s top White House advisors and a longtime aide, also has strong ties to Amazon and its federal lobbying efforts. The company recently hired his brother, Jeff Ricchetti, to lobby on COVID-19 and the implementation of the CARES Act, according to its disclosure forms.

The two co-founded the lobbying firm Ricchetti Inc. in 2001 after Steve Ricchetti left President Bill Clinton’s administration, where he served as deputy chief of staff.

Steve Ricchetti and Blinken, whose private-sector work is omitted from his biography on the Biden transition site, are not the only figures in the incoming Biden administration with corporate ties. Ron Klain, Biden’s incoming chief of staff, worked with AOL founder Steve Case in venture capital and warned about the impact government regulation can have on technology start-ups in a 2015 op-ed.

Despite the ties between his developing administration and corporations, Biden took an aggressive stance against lobbyists and special interests during the campaign, pledging to reduce the influence of money in politics, heighten ethical standards, rein in financial conflicts of interest in the Executive Branch and more.

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