The Wall Street Journal first reported on Saturday that National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan’s public financial disclosures reveal that he’s advised Microsoft on policy for three years, receiving almost $50,000 last year alone. This is sadly not surprising.
As The American Prospect has covered extensively, Sullivan, like Secretary of State Blinken and others in the Biden national security apparatus, spent the Trump years as a “consultant,” better termed as a shadow lobbyist, for Big Tech and other industries. Sullivan was a consultant for a firm called Macro Advisory Partners, while Blinken founded his own consultancy called WestExec Advisors.
They may not have done work that meets the narrow legal definition of lobbying (telling a Congressmember or regulator to vote yes or no on a particular bill or regulation), but the work they did likely meets any colloquial definition of lobbying: schmoozing with powerful DC officials on behalf of a major corporation, and advising that corporation on how to get its way in Washington.
This will inevitably lead to conflicts of interest: multinational firms like Microsoft interact with foreign policy officials on issues of international trade and stability, among other topics. Sullivan’s insider knowledge of how the executive branch sets global policy was, in fact, the valuable commodity he could offer to Microsoft worth a $45,000 annual stipend.
The Journal highlighted that Sullivan is currently overseeing an interagency effort to address a cyberattack on Microsoft’s Exchange email software, believed to have originated in China. It’s appropriate for the National Security Advisor to be looped in on pressing cybersecurity issues. But if Sullivan’s interactions with Microsoft lead to the federal government subsidizing it in any way, such as helping fund and develop new and more advanced safety protocols, this will raise important questions. Moreover, if Microsoft’s anti-competitive tactics are a key factor to America’s vulnerability to hackers, and there is good reason to think so, then Sullivan’s connections with the company pose a threat to national security.
Instead of contorting itself to keep key administration officials from working on projects with their former clients, the easier and safer path for Biden — which would have also built greater trust in his administration — would have been to simply not appoint Sullivan at all.
PHOTO: “Hillary Clinton’s Senior Policy Advisor Jake Sullivan” by Asia Society is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.