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Newsletter | February 15, 2024

An RDP Love Letter To Picking Fights and Good Punditry

Corporate CrackdownDepartment of JusticeExecutive BranchHousing
An RDP Love Letter To Picking Fights and Good Punditry

This newsletter was originally published on our Substack. Read and subscribe here.

Show Voters You Love Them By Fighting

By Julian Scoffield:

Good afternoon and happy (belated) Valentine’s Day to you all! There’s nothing that we love at RDP more than a good fight against the individuals and organizations that profit at the public’s expense. As such, we have regularly advocated for the Biden administration to likewise demonstrate our passion for feuding with corporate villains.

Embracing a corporate crackdown is good policy on its own, but would prove to be especially powerful during an election year where public pessimism about the economy is pervasive. Nothing says “vote for me, I have your back” like loudly naming, shaming, and reprimanding big businesses whose operations continue to negatively impact the lives of everyday Americans. 

Take rent for example, a financial strain that tens of millions of us struggle with every month. That burden is heavy in no small part due to companies like RealPage, a business that markets itself as “provide[ing] data analytics, property management software, and services to efficiently manage rental properties and real estate.” What that means in reality, as ProPublica detailed in a report last year, is that RealPage acts as a facilitator for collusion among corporate landlords to raise rents and price gouge. The company’s chief economist Jay Parsons said as much at a 2022 conference where he boasted about RealPage’s Yieldstar rent pricing algorithm’s effectiveness: “Never before have we seen these numbers.” Parson’s statements were then followed up by a colleague who, citing apartment rents increasing by “as much as 14.5 percent,” declared, “I think [Yieldstar] is driving it, quite honestly.”

Parson’s and RealPage would be ideal candidates for a Kamala Harris-led crackdown as part of a Biden administration-wide push to ameliorate undue burdens on the poor, working, and middle classes. My colleague Emma Marsano outlined how this scenario could play out in her recent piece for The New Republic

“Picture the scene: Vice President Kamala Harris stands in front of an array of microphones outside the headquarters of a technology company freshly indicted for driving up rental prices. A crowd of reporters clamor for her attention [and] Harris leans into the moment, calling out the corporation’s greed in extracting excessive profits from renters who are just trying to afford housing. The corporation’s famously snippy chief economist hits back all week, shooting off fiery tweets criticizing the V.P., and giving interviews on CNBC. The story dominates the news cycle for days, with the media opining on whether Harris was doing her job to protect her constituents or overstepping her role and calling out entrepreneurial tech executives too harshly […] With the express support of executive branch leadership as cover, regulators at various federal agencies [from the Department Of Justice Antitrust Division to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and Federal Trade Commission] would be well positioned to continue work that supports renters.”

This scenario, while imagined, is not far-fetched at all. ProPublica’s reporting has already activated both a DOJ investigation and numerous tenant lawsuits, including a class action case with DOJ support. Likewise RealPage has since begun actively proclaiming its innocence and pushing back on allegations that its products have helped fuel the housing affordability crisis. The only piece missing from turning our hopes to reality is the express antagonism of Biden administration spokespeople. RealPage is ready to be drawn into a juicy fight—we just need willing instigators! 

While it’s disappointing that the most visible figures of the executive branch—-most prominently the President and Vice President themselves—-have yet to fully embrace this opportunity to bully corporate wrongdoers at RealPage, it’s encouraging to see that much of the actual hard work is already underway. And that’s the case not just in the realm of housing affordability, but in other arenas where corporate malfeasance is rampant. Rohit Chopra and his fellow regulators at the CFPB, for example, have been steadily making good on Biden’s promises to eliminate junk fees, as evidenced most recently by a rule proposed earlier this month to rein in bank overdraft fees. Likewise Lina Khan and her team at the FTC—despite what pro-business hacks want you to think—have been quite successful in giving teeth to Biden’s efforts to promote competition through reinvigorated antitrust regulation.

Sadly, however, the pushback on Chopra and Khan has been vicious within the Beltway and business elites but subtle beyond those influential but finite universes. These useful fights need a sprinkle of Biden or Harris’ direct involvement in order to become more broadly known.

However, there are still areas where more substantive work needs to be done in addition to better stagecraft. One glaring example is extending labor protections to those working in the ever-expanding gig economy. For far too long, companies like Uber, Lyft, and Doordash have been able to increase their market share, brand recognition, and lobbying power by reclassifying their workforce as independent contractors. This cynical move has led to abysmal working conditions for those employed by these firms, many of whom went on strike yesterday in protest of said conditions. Despite having all been operating for at least a decade at this point, these firms still struggle to turn a profit. Uber, for example, recorded its first ever annual operating profit as a limited company just last year, while DoorDash and Lyft remain unable to do so. To put it simply, these companies could not stand as viable businesses without flouting labor law. “Union Joe’s” bonafides as a champion of the working class could and should be questioned if his administration as a whole, and Department of Labor Secretary Julie Su more specifically, are unwilling to rein in the power of tech companies whose only real innovative action has been the reinvention of piece work through regulatory arbitrage. 

Across the executive branch, regulators are proving their love for the public good by ruffling the feathers of corporate America. It’s time for Biden and Harris to do more to publicly support these efforts, turning the strongest points of their executive branch regulatory regime into populist talking points to rally the support of rightfully disgruntled voters.

A Valentine’s Message From Hack Watch

By Vishal Shankar & Ethan Cook:

In (belated) honor of Valentine’s Day, the Hack Watch team has taken a break from hack-bashing this week to spread some love. Below are a few journalists and media critics who hold a special place in our hearts. 

Did we miss anyone (apologies for breaking your heart)? Let us know which political writers you love reading. 

Follow the Revolving Door Project’s work on whatever platform works for you! You can find us on that website formerly known as Twitter, Bluesky, Instagram, and Facebook

Want more? Check out some of the pieces that we have published or contributed research or thoughts to in the last week:


EPA urged to steer NEPA gas review to White House

Joe Biden’s pick for OECD ambassador could give up Coinbase advisory council: Report

Senate should show ‘backbone’ and en

force subpoenas of Clarence Thomas’ backers: columnist

Democratic senators accuse ‘green’ gas companies of overcharging consumers in ‘brazen conflict of interest’

Certified natural gas is ‘dangerous greenwashing scheme’, US senators say


Durbin Must Enforce His SCOTUS Investigation Subpoenas

USPS Head Louis DeJoy Slammed for “Fanatical Devotion to Price Hikes”

‘We Won’t Be Silenced!’ Protesters Decry DeJoy at USPS Meeting

Special Counsel Robert Hur Hits Biden For ‘Significantly Limited’ Memory

The Fed’s FOIA Office Is Obscuring Its Trading Scandals

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this post misstated RealPage executive Jay Parsons’ job title. He is RealPage’s chief economist, not its CEO.

Corporate CrackdownDepartment of JusticeExecutive BranchHousing

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