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Blog Post | January 11, 2021

UPDATE: Public Financial Disclosures Reveal Potential Conflicts Of Interest Facing Biden Appointees

2020 Election/TransitionCabinetEthics in GovernmentExecutive BranchRevolving Door
UPDATE: Public Financial Disclosures Reveal Potential 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. 

As of early January, personal financial disclosures have been released for the following appointees:

  • Lloyd Austin, Secretary of Defense nominee, 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.
  • Antony Blinken, Secretary of State nominee: 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.
  • Pete Buttigieg, Secretary of Transportation nominee: 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.
  • Miguel Cardona, Secretary of Education nominee: 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. 
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Avril Haines, Director of National Intelligence nominee: 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.
  • 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.
  • Dennis McDonough, Secretary of Veteran’s Affairs nominee: 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.
  • Gina Raimondo, Commerce Secretary nominee, 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.
  • Katherine Tai, US Trade Representative nominee: 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.
  • Neera Tanden, Director of Office of Management & Budget nominee: 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.
  • Thomas Vilsack, Secretary of Agriculture nominee, 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. 
  • Marty Walsh, Secretary of Labor nominee, Form 278E and Ethics Agreement
    • Walsh made $199,000 as Mayor of Boston. He has up to $355,000 invested in mutual funds. 
  • Janet Yellen, Treasury Secretary nominee: 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.

Note: This page was most recently updated on 1/25/21 and will continue to 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.

2020 Election/TransitionCabinetEthics in GovernmentExecutive BranchRevolving Door

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