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Blog Post | March 18, 2021

Public Financial Disclosures Reveal Conflicts Of Interest Facing Biden Appointees

2020 Election/TransitionCabinetEthics in GovernmentExecutive BranchRevolving Door
Public Financial Disclosures Reveal Conflicts Of Interest Facing Biden Appointees

On New Years Eve, the US Office of Government Ethics (OGE) began releasing public financial disclosures for some of the Biden Administration’s highest political appointees. These financial disclosures show income sources, debts, financial holdings, private sector jobs, and relationships that are important to illuminate potential conflicts of interest executive branch appointees may face. It also publishes “Ethics Agreements” which detail how an appointee would recuse themselves or divest from sensitive holdings to prevent conflicts of interest. 

The Revolving Door Project will be tracking these disclosures and flagging important revelations revealed by the OGE to ensure high level political appointees are not financially beholden to special interests they may regulate in government. We also co-published a letter with dozens of other organizations calling on the Biden administration to strengthen financial disclosure requirements.

We have collected personal financial disclosures for high ranking officials across the following departments and agencies as of March, 2021:

Department of Agriculture

  • Thomas Vilsack, Secretary of Agriculture, Form 278E and Ethics Agreement
    • Vilsack made $833,000 as President and CEO of the United States Dairy Export Council, an agriculture industry advocate. He also works with Purdue Pharma to monitor their legal settlement over their manufacturing of the opioid epidemic. His ethics agreement states that he will refrain from working on issues related to Purdue Pharma and the Dairy Export Council. This means that Vilsack will have to recuse himself from key social issues disproportionately hitting rural America and from issues related to one of the largest agriculture industries in the US. He is also listed as a political consultant for Link and Associates. Vilsack is a multimillionaire who owns valuable farmland and millions of dollars in various investment vehicles. 
  • Jewel Bronaugh, Deputy Secretary of Agriculture, Form 278E and Ethics Agreement
    • Bronaugh was formerly the Commissioner of the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and other government affiliated agriculture groups. His finances are relatively noncontroversial and mostly held in various retirement index funds.
  • Janie Simms Hipp, General Counsel, Form 278E
    • Hipp has numerous oil/gas and mineral interests from multiple petroleum companies in Oklahoma, Texas and others. He makes at least $25,000 in rent and royalties from fossil fuels. He also owns a small amount of stock (less than $1,000) in Walmart. Hipp was the CEO of the Native American Agriculture Fund and President of Native Solutions, an inactive consulting firm that has not had clients in 2020 or 2021. He also consulted for the corporate law firm, Cohen Millstein.

Central Intelligence Agency

  • William J. Burns, CIA Director nominee, Form 278E and Ethics Agreement
    • William J. Burns made $512,230 as President of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. He serves as a board member to Macro Advisory Partners (a shadow lobbying firm), Makena Capital Management, Allianz (a financial services company), International Paper, and as Senior Advisor to Blackstone. His Ethics Agreement stipulates that he will resign from his positions with the Carnegie Endowment, Macro Advisory Partners, Allianz, and International Paper (and liquidate his stock in the company). He resigned from his position with  Makena Capital in December 2020. He holds up to $11,250,000 in various investment vehicles, including BlackRock products. 

Department of Commerce

  • Gina Raimondo, Commerce Secretary, Form 278E and Ethics Agreement
    • Raimondo is a multimillionaire venture capitalist who is the beneficiary of not one but two family trusts. She and her spouse own millions in various BlackRock, Fidelity, Vanguard, and private equity investments. Her husband received a salary from McKinsey, the notorious consulting firm, PathAI, a medical tech company, and Harvard University. Her ethics agreement requires that she not deal in matters relating to health or energy sectors, meaning she will not be able to manage significant portions of the Commerce Secretary’s economic duties until she divests from these assets.
  • Donet Graves Jr., Deputy Secretary, Form 278E and Ethics Agreement
    • Graves Jr. is the Executive Vice President of KeyBank, an Ohio retail and corporate bank. He has hundreds of thousands of dollars invested in various BlackRock and other investment vehicles and index funds.
  • Leslie Kiernan, General Counsel, Form 278E and Ethics Agreement
    • Kiernan was a partner at Akin Grump Strauss Hauer & Feld, a corporate defense firm and also the managing member of her personal legal firm, Kiernan PLLC. She provided “legal services” to companies like Deutsche Bank, America’s Health Insurance Plans, Flatiron Health, Ikea, McLarty Associates, and a raft of individuals who were current or former government officials.

Department of Defense

  • Lloyd Austin, Secretary of Defense, Form 278E and Ethics Agreement
    • Austin sits on the board of major weapons manufacturers and defense contractors/subcontractors like Raytheon, Booz Allen Hamilton, United Technologies and Nucor Corporation. Austin is also affiliated with Pine Island Capital Partners, an investment fund with a defense company focus that the New York Times called an “example of how former officials leverage their expertise, connections and access on behalf of corporations and other interests, without in some cases disclosing details about their work, including the names of the clients or what they are paid.” He also founded his own consulting firm called Austin Strategy Group. Austin also sits on the boards of Tenet Healthcare, Guest Services, the Carnegie Corporations, and is an advisor to Fidelity Investments. Austin owns significant stock in almost all of these companies (including over $1 million in Raytheon stock alone) and will be in a position to improve their positions as Secretary of Defense.

Department of Education

  • Miguel Cardona, Secretary of Education: Form 278E and Ethics Agreement
    • Cardona made $199,833 as Commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Education. He has up to $725,000 invested in mutual funds and retirement accounts. 
  • Cynthia Marten, Deputy Secretary of Education, Form 278E and Ethics Agreement
    • Marten is the Superintendent of the San Diego Unified School District, and is also the Commission of the San Diego Library Commission, the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing, and the Commission on Gang Prevention & Intervention. 
  • James Kvaal, Under Secretary of Education, Form 278E and Ethics Agreement
    • Kvaal is the President of the Institute for College Access & Success and has various investments mostly in Fidelity and Vanguard Funds. 

Department of Energy

  • Jennifer Granholm, Secretary of Energy nominee, Form 278E and Ethics Agreement
    • Granholm owns stock in energy companies like Duke Electric and other unscrupulous firms like Visa, Wells Fargo, Bank of America, Pfizer, Microsoft, and Apple. She sits on numerous corporate boards including Proterra (an electric bus company), American Bridge Foundation (a major Super PAC), Techtonic and Marinette Marine Corporation (shipbuilding company). She received six figure salaries through her consulting firm Granholm Mulhern Associates and though she promised to stop her consulting work, her husband will continue to manage investments through it. She has also given paid speeches to groups like RBC Capital Markets, American Israel Public Affairs Committee, American Public Transportation Association, the Capital Group, and many others.
  • David Turk, Deputy Secretary of Energy, Form 278E and Ethics Agreement
    • Turk is a high level official in the International Energy Agency with minimal significant financial holdings.

Department of Health & Human Services

  • Xavier Becerra, Secretary of Health & Human Services, Form 278E and Ethics Agreement
    • Becerra is the former Attorney General of California and is invested in hundreds of thousands of various index funds.
  • Andrea Palm, Deputy Secretary of Health & Human Services, Form 278E and Ethics Agreement
    • Palm was the head of the Wisconsin Department of Health Services. She has various holdings in health companies like like CVS, AbbVie (pharmaceutical company), General Electric (healthcare appliances) and others. She is a multimillionaire who owns stock in companies like Amazon, Facebook, Comcast, American Express, Disney, Honeywell, Boeing, Intel, and many more.
  • Rachel Levine, Assistant Secretary for Health, Form 278E and Ethics Agreement
    • Levine was the Pennsylvania Secretary of Health and the President of the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials. Her finances are invested in mostly noncontroversial index funds.
  • Chiquita Brooks-LaSure, Administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, Form 278E and Ethics Agreement
    • Brooks-LaSure is a revolving door hire who became the managing director at Manatt, Phelps & Phillips’ Health Practice after working in government on health legislation. Her firm advises health insurance and hospital companies like Aetna and Blue Cross Blue Shield. While working for them, she personally worked for companies like Pfizer, Blue Shield of California, Genentech, Gilead Sciences, Vertex Pharmaceuticals, and many other healthcare companies. In her new role as the head of the Center for Medicare * Medicaid, she will interface significantly with many of these companies. She also made up to $15,000 each for undisclosed work from Target and Apple.
  • Dawn O’Connell, Assistant Secretary for Preparedness & Response, Form 278E
    • O’Connell’s finances are relatively uncontroversial reflecting her position as the Director of the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations.
  • Vivek Murthy, Surgeon General: Form 278E and Ethics Agreement
    • Murthy made hundreds of thousands through his speaking/writing/consulting firm Blue Sky Ventures. He’s been paid for speeches by Cigna, Optum,  Blue Cross and Blue Shield,  America’s Health Insurance Plans,  Managed Health Care Associates,  College of Healthcare Information Management Executives,  Kaiser Permanente,  American Society of Health-System Pharmacists and many others. He has also consulted for or spoken in various capacities to powerful organizations like Google, PWC, UBS, AirBnb, Netflix, and the Business Roundtable. He’s made over a million dollars consulting for Netflix, Airbnb, Carnival Cruises and Estee Lauder. He’s taken speaking fees from UBS. And he sits on the boards of Attention (a mental health company), SVN Med and an advisor to L&N Baby (both are medical technology companies).

Department of Homeland Security

  • Alejandro Mayorkas, Secretary of Homeland Security nominee: Form 278E and Ethics Agreement
    • Mayorkas is a Partner at Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale & Dorr since 2016 where he made up to $6 million. He has provided “legal services” to big tech companies like Uber, Airbnb, and Twitter, to the financial giant Blackstone, and other major corporations including T-Mobile, Clorox, Cisco, Northrop Grumman, Leidos, and more. Mayorkas also has millions in various retirement accounts and investment vehicles.
  • Deanne Criswell, Administrator, Federal Emergency Management Agency: Form 278E and Ethics Agreement
    • Criswell is the Commissioner of the New York City Emergency Management Department, and was previously a consultant for the Cadmus Group, a consulting firm that advises public agencies and big corporations. He has large individual stock holdings in a variety of Big Tech companies like Alphabet, Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Netflix, Nvidia, Paypal, Shopify, Microsoft, Etsy, and others. He also maintains significant holdings in companies like Walmart, Costco, Target, Nvidia, AMD, Starbucks, and others. He will be required to divest his holdings in Honeywell, Johnson & Johnson, FedEx and Home Depot because of the potential conflict of interest those holdings pose for the head of FEMA.

Department of Housing & Urban Development

  • Marcia Fudge, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development nominee: Form 278E and Ethics Agreement
    • Disclosures show that Fudge receives a $5,000/month pension payment and holds up to $250,000 in retirement accounts both from the state of Ohio. She also owns a property in Warrensville, Ohio worth up to $250,000 and has bank accounts with up to $300,000 cash. She also has 3 mortgages on residential properties worth up to a maximum of $450,000.

Department of Interior

  • Deb Haaland, Secretary of the Interior nominee: Form 278E and Ethics Agreement
    • All that is listed in Haaland’s disclosures are a $175 annual payment she receives as a member of the Pueblo of Laguna, and student loans she still has from 2006.

US Agency For International Development

  • Samantha Power, USAID Administrator, Form 278E and Ethics Agreement
    • Samantha Power made $471,167 as a Harvard professor. Power was paid $350,990 for speaking engagements with organizations and companies including Nestle, KPMG, Google, Salesforce, UBS, Compliance Week, Teneo Strategy, Transamerica, and Milbank Corp. She has also made at least $1,022,930 in book royalties. Power’s spouse, Cass Sunstein, has consulted for Apple, Global Asset Capital, and advised Humu (an HR tech company). He is also a board member of Behavioral Insight Team. She will resign from her position as an advisor to The Social+Capital Partnership, which has earned her up to $50,000 in capital gains interest. She holds up to $11,735,000 in assorted investment vehicles including Blackrock products and Johnson & Johnson and Tesla stocks. Her Ethics Agreement stipulates that she will divest her interests in Johnson & Johnson within 90 days from her confirmation. 

Department of Justice

  • Merrick Garland, Attorney General, Form 278E and Ethics Agreement
    • Garland, a judge on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, had sizeable stock holdings in pharmaceutical companies, with between $15,000 to $50,000 in Pfizer, $1,000 to $15,000 in Viatris, and $15,000 to $50,000 in Bristol-Myers Squibb. He also reported holding between $100,000 to $250,000 in stock in General Mills, $1,000 to $15,000 in stock in J.M. Smucker Co., and $250,000 to $500,000 in stock in Procter & Gamble. Garland’s ethics agreement stipulates that he will divest his interests in all the aforementioned entities no later than 90 days after his confirmation, and will recuse himself from any actions involving or affecting those companies.
  • Lisa Monaco, Deputy Attorney General nominee, Form 278E and Ethics Agreement
    • Monaco was previously a partner at the Trump-supporting O’Melveny & Meyers and a principal to the corporate shadow lobbying firm, WestExec Advisors. She also sits on the boards of numerous corporations including Accenture Federal Services, Cognosante, Alclear, and nonprofits like the Watson Institute, and Hostage. She is also the owner of LOM Strategies, her individual consultancy firm. She has consulted or provided legal services for Lyft, Apple, ExxonMobil, Humana, SoftBank, Lockheed Martin, Booz Allen Hamilton, Boeing and other corporations.

Department of Labor

  • Marty Walsh, Secretary of Labor, Form 278E and Ethics Agreement
    • Walsh made $199,000 as Mayor of Boston. He has up to $355,000 invested in mutual funds. 
  • Julie Su, Deputy Labor Secretary, Form 278E and Ethics Agreement
    • Su was previously the Labor Secretary of California, one of the most pro-worker states in the country, and sits on the board of the Worker Rights Consortium and other state labor agencies. Her finances are noncontroversial and invested in index funds.
  • Jennifer Abruzzo, General Counsel of Department of Labor, Form 278E and Ethics Agreement
    • Abruzzo was the former counsel for the Communications Workers of America and her finances are in unremarkable index funds.

Director of Office of Management & Budget

  • Shalanda Young, Director of Office of Management & Budget, Form 278E and Ethics Agreement.
    • Young’s financial disclosures do not list any retirement assets or investments at all, likely due to her current role as Staff Director of the US House Committee on Appropriations.
  • Neera Tanden, Director of Office of Management & Budget (now withdrawn): Form 278E and Ethics Agreement
    • Tanden is the President and CEO of the Center For American Progress (CAP) and a board member of Justice in Aging. She made $731,528 from CAP and an additional $68,381 from their Action Fund. Tanden earned $10,000 each from speaking fees given to Wells Fargo and the Capital Group where she participated in discussions with Karl Rove and Rich Lowry.

Office of the Director of National Intelligence

  • Avril Haines, Director of National Intelligence: Form 278E and Ethics Agreement
    • Haines consulted for the Silicon Valley giant Uber, the major ICE collaborator and NSA surveillance tech provider Palantir, sat on the board of the investment firm Tikehau Capital, and was a principal of boutique shadow lobbying firm WestExec Advisors.
  • Christopher Fonzone, General Counsel: Form 278E and Ethics Agreement
    • Fonzone was a partner at Sidley Austin from 2017-2021. He provided legal services to tech companies like Apple and Twitter, medical device company McKesson, and telecom giant AT&T. He Also was an attorney to major financial companies like Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Lone Pine Capital, Anchorage Capital Group, CIT Group, In-Q-Tel, OMERS Private Equity, Vector Capital, StoneX Group, Canadian Capital Management, Farallon Capital Management, and many, many others.

Securities & Exchange Commission

  • Gary Gensler, SEC Chair nominee: Form 278E and Ethics Agreement
    • Gary Gensler was paid $315,275 by MIT. Gensler is a board member of the Tilles Foundation, an organization that makes charitable investments in organizations serving children with disabilities, and K-16 Education. He will resign from his position as Managing Member of Annabel Lee, LLC, but will continue to have a financial interest in this entity (according to Gensler’s 2009 disclosures, Annabel Lee is a Family Investment Company). Gensler will resign from the Federal Reserve’s fintech advisory group. He holds $14,315,000 in various investment vehicles.

Department of State

  • Antony Blinken, Secretary of State: Form 278E and Ethics Agreement
    • Blinken founded WestExec Advisors, sits on the board of the investment firm Meridiam and was an advisor to the venture capital firm Social Capital. He also consulted for big tech companies like Uber, Facebook, Microsoft, SoftBank, and LinkedIn, along with major financial institutions like RBC, Bank of America, Blackstone, and the Carlyle Group. His ethics agreement explains that he will not work on issues related to any of the companies he consulted for with WestExec, which means that Blinken will have to recuse himself from major issues as Secretary of State or receive an ethics waiver. He also took thousands from major corporations like McKinsey’s, FedEx, Discover, Boeing, AT&T, and Sotheby’s, and owns stock in companies like Alphabet (Google’s parent company), United HealthGroup, and Facebook.
  • Victoria Nuland, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, Form 278E and Ethics Agreement
    • Nuland was also a senior counselor to the shadow lobbying firm, Albright Stonebridge Group. She also connected to multiple foreign policy think tanks funded by the military industrial complex, including the Center For A New American Security, and consulted for Big Tech companies Amazon and Lyft, and pharmaceutical companies Pfizer, Merck and Tilray. She received compensation worth at least $5,000 from the Royal Bank Of Canada, TPI Composites (wind energy company), ERG International (furniture manufacturer), and runs her own consultancy NulandQuest LLC which does not disclose its clients. She is a multimillionaire who has millions in various BlackRock and related financial vehicles.
  • Zeya Uzra, Under Secretary of State for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights, Form 278E and Ethics Agreement
    • Uzra is the owner of Zenith Strategies, a personal consulting firm she runs without having to share her clients. She is also the President of Alliance for Peacebuilding, a nonprofit, and on the board of Digital Peace Now Society and Women in Action for Women. Her ownership stake in Zenith strategies is worth between $50,000 to $100,000. She also worked for Microsoft, and Western Digital as a consultant for Albright Stonebridge.
  • Bonnie Jenkins, Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security, Form 278E and Ethics Agreement
    • Jenkins was the founder and director of Women of Color Advancing Peace, Security and Conflict Transformation and the President of Innervisions, her personal consultancy for which she does not disclose her clients. She was also a consultant for Brookhaven Science Associates, a public private laboratory.
  • Linda Thomas Greenfield, Ambassador to the United Nations, Form 278E, Ethics Agreement
    • Greenfield is a Senior Vice President to the shadowy Albright Stonebridge Group as well as LTG Consultants. She is also on the boards of numerous nonprofits including the Robertson Foundation for Government, the Ellen Johnson Sirleaf Presidential Center For Women & Development, the US Committee for Refugees & Immigrants. She made at least $509,554 working for Albright Stonebridge, whose clients include Amazon, Microsoft, Pfizer, Merck, Black & Veatch (engineering company) and more. Most notably, she consulted for Endeavor Energy Holdings, a company that constructs liquid natural gas pipelines in Africa. She also owns Microsoft between $50,000 to $100,000 stock and $1,000 to $15,000 in Duke Energy (an electric company).

Department of Transportation

  • Pete Buttigieg, Secretary of Transportation: Form 278E and Ethics Agreement
    • Buttigieg made over $100,000 as Mayor of South Bend, but he has made significantly more since then including hundreds of thousands of dollars in book advances and up to a million in royalties for book sales. He has also made over $150,000 from his podcasting partnership with iHeartRadio. Buttigieg and his spouse also own stock in Apple, Alphabet (Google’s parent company) and hundreds of thousands in other investment vehicles.
  • Polly Trottenberg, Deputy Secretary of Transportation, Form 278E and Ethics Agreement
    • Polly was Commissioner of the New York City Department of Transportation prior to her nomination. She also sat on the board of multiple New York-centric  transportation groups including the Intelligent Transportation Society of America, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, GrowNYC, the NY Metropolitan Transportation Council, and TRANSCOM. She has one parent plus student loan for a child of hers worth between $10,000 to $15,0000.

Office of the US Trade Representative

  • Katherine Tai, US Trade Representative: Form 278E and Ethics Agreement
    • Tai does not have any employment outside of the US government according to her disclosures, and maintains less than a million dollars in various investment vehicles aside from property owned in California.

Department of Treasury

  • Janet Yellen, Treasury Secretary, Form 278E and Ethics Agreement
    • Yellen earned $7 million in speaking fees from various large banks including CitiGroup, Bank of America, Credit Suisse, Goldman Sachs, UBS, Morgan Stanley, private equity firms like Apollo Management, and earned thousands speaking to groups that represent investors like the Mortgage Bankers Association and the Associate of Foreign Investors In Real Estate.
  • Adewale “Wally” Adeyemo, Deputy Treasury Secretary, Form 278E and Ethics Agreement
    • Adeyemo sits on the board of the liberal nonprofit, Demos, but was also chief of staff to Larry Fink, the CEO of the climate-destructive asset management firm BlackRock. He has deep connections to the Obama administration and was the President of the Obama Foundation. He also ran an independent consulting firm, Adewale Adeyemo Consulting, but claims it has been inactive for years and therefore did not disclose his clients.

Veterans Affairs Department

  • Dennis McDonough, Secretary of Veterans Affairs: Form 278E and Ethics Agreement
    • McDonough is a senior partner at Macro Advisory Partners, a notorious consulting firm that many Biden administration officials are tied to that uses inside government connections for the benefit of corporate clients. He has also received tens of thousands for speaking fees and “strategic advice” to companies like Apple, MasterCard, Charles Schwab, Deutsche Telekom, PricewaterCoopers, GlaxoSmithKline (a major pharmaceutical company) and  others. He also sits on the boards of numerous political advocacy groups including the SAFE Project, the National Democratic Institute, Strong Future Maryland, and the Poder HQ Steering Committee. He was a consultant to the Markle Foundation, a major philanthropic outfit.

This page will be updated as new financial disclosure forms are released for more executive branch nominees.
For detailed information on other political appointees not named here, go to the OGE’s website. Filings for lower level appointees may be requested through the OGE’s online portal or requested by directly sending the Form 201 to the OGE contact at the respective agency where the official works currently, or did work in the past, or will soon work if confirmed.

Photo Credit: “Vice Pres. Joe Biden, with Deputy Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, discuss partnerships with South Korean, Japanese representatives” by #PACOM is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

2020 Election/TransitionCabinetEthics in GovernmentExecutive BranchRevolving Door

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