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February 21, 2020 | The American Prospect
The Top Lawyer Bankrolling Democrats
The insidious influence of the wealthy over our politics, as Alexander Sammon wrote last month, is perhaps the defining issue of the 2020 Democratic primary. It’s the reason we at the Revolving Door Project have been yammering on about bundlers—the wealthy and well-connected volunteer fundraisers who almost inevitably end up receiving or influencing key jobs across the executive branch. Bundlers have driven the facile premise of both Tom Steyer and Mike Bloomberg’s campaigns: “I can’t be bought by the rich, because I am one of the rich who buys.” This was initially Donald Trump’s pitch, too. And the desire to reject the influence of bundlers raise hopes in Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren’s campaigns, largely driven by small dollars and people power.
January 31, 2020
Who Exactly Are Joe Biden and Pete Buttigieg's Bundlers?
Eleanor Eagan | Max Moran
Beginning in the fall, the Revolving Door Project was one of a handful of voices drawing attention to Democratic primary candidates’ failure to release the names of their most important fundraisers. In op-eds, newsletters, and across other forums throughout the fall we repeatedly made the case that this consequential information could not stay hidden.
Why were we so insistent? A candidate’s list of top fundraisers, or bundlers, provides clearer insight than perhaps any other piece of campaign material into how a candidate would actually do the job of being president.
January 27, 2020 | InsideSources
The Issue Dividing Democratic Candidates Is Hidden in Plain Sight
Takes came in hot and heavy last weekend after the New York Times editorial board endorsed both Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar for the Democratic presidential nomination, mercifully ending the paper’s self-aggrandizing pseudo-event widely compared to … that’s right … “The Apprentice.”
The Times split its endorsement due to the intra-Democratic cleave between what it termed a “radical” path represented by Warren and a “pragmatic” path represented by Klobuchar.
December 04, 2019 | The American Prospect
Bloomberg News’ Curious Interpretation of Editorial Independence
Bloomberg News raised some eyebrows in the media world last week when reports leaked that it won’t investigate former New York mayor and Wall Street darling Michael Bloomberg as he (groan) runs for president. The news outlet also decided to refrain from investigating any other Democrats running, to maintain a level playing field, and added that the opinion page would publish no outside op-eds on the election as long as its owner remained a candidate.
October 23, 2019 | The American Prospect
Moderate Democrats Back a Privacy Bill, Minus the Privacy
“We need to start thinking not just about ticky-tack privacy rules, but what’s the reason why companies invade our privacy? And one of those reasons is the behavioral advertising model … it’s often manipulative. So we have to think about how these businesses are incentivized and structured if we want to get to the root cause of massive surveillance in our economy today.”
So declared FTC Commissioner Rohit Chopra at a hearing on online platforms and market power last week. Chopra, who’s earned a reputation as a crusader in his short term thus far, was opening the door to a far deeper conversation about Big Tech than one usually hears in Washington, even in the midst of the so-called “techlash.”
October 07, 2019 | The American Prospect
Freddie Mac Using Shady AI Company for Mortgage Loans
The Wall Street Journal reported recently that Freddie Mac, the government-sponsored mortgage giant, is testing underwriting software from fintech firm ZestFinance. A creation of ex-Google executive Douglas Merrill, ZestFinance claims to use machine learning and artificial intelligence to spot trends in a borrower’s record that traditional lending models miss. This supposedly allows more credit to flow to borrowers who need and can afford it, allowing Freddie to issue more mortgages.
October 02, 2019 | The Daily Beast
Don’t Stop With Donald Trump, Democrats: Impeach Attorney General Bill Barr
It’s beyond redundant to say that Donald Trump must be impeached over the Ukraine scandal. The so-called transcript of his July phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelevsky released last week — really a collection of notes — was already damning evidence of the president manipulating foreign policy for his personal political goals. Then the actual whistleblower complaint reconfirmed and solidified the case. Trump’s White House counsel, Donald McGahn, even wrote a memo cautioning him that using law enforcement powers to target a political adversary would be illegal and clearly impeachable.
But if Democrats are going to uncover more information through aggressive hearings and ultimately impeach the president, they need to recognize their most powerful adversary: Attorney General William Barr.
September 23, 2019
Key House Democrats Are Giving Betsy DeVos A Free Ride
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos testified before the House Education and Labor Committee five months ago. She sat down, cleared her throat, and proceded to dodge basic yes-or-no questions about everything from transgender rights to literacy programs to arming teachers for several hours. Through her evasiveness, and the many issues Democrats wanted to bring up, there was barely any discussion of the trillion dollar student loan crisis, a calamity chaining down a whole generation’s opportunity, and which is now larger than both credit card and auto loan debt. Over $1.4 trillion of the $1.5 trillion debt is part of the federal government’s student loan portfolio, which the Education Department oversees.
September 23, 2019 | Common Dreams
Why Are House Democrats Afraid to Wield Their Subpoena Power?
Does the Democratic leadership even want to wield power?
It’s hard to tell. Nine months into their House majority, Democratic committee chairs don’t seem to realize they have any powers at all besides the occasional sarcastic clap.
To be clear, Democratic House leaders possess a major power that Republicans can do nothing to block, obstruct, or impede: the power to issue and enforce subpoenas.
September 16, 2019
Revolving Door Project Probes Thiel's White House Connection
Washington is awash with proposals for a new regulatory agency centered on Silicon Valley. Often lost in that important conversation is the fact that the executive branch already has some positions with a direct focus on the technology sector, though they are limited in scope and scattered across the alphabet-soup of agencies. Perhaps no tech-focused bureaucrat has the president’s ear quite like the Chief Technology Officer. The CTO is the White House’s top advisor on anything to do with technology and innovation, tasked with explaining the latest developments and guiding the thinking of the most powerful politician on earth.
September 11, 2019
Google’s Settlement With The FTC Shows A Culture Of Corruption Thriving
The FTC’s pittance of a settlement with Google over serious violations of children’s privacy laws came and went through the news cycle with little more than a shrug from the public last month. That’s understandable; folks following Silicon Valley’s relationship with Washington right now are singularly focused on the concurrent state and federal-level antitrust inquiries into the biggest four tech companies, Google included. Moreover, as I wrote in the American Prospect yesterday, Google shields itself particularly well from prying progressive eyes, thanks to a combination of think tank donations, overtures to Democratic elites, and just offering highly functional products whose creepy surveillance downsides are little understood by consumers. But this is the Revolving Door Project, so we couldn’t let a corporate giveaway go by without looking at the personnel behind it. And as the aphorism, sometimes attributed to Mark Twain, goes: “history never repeats itself, but it often rhymes.”
September 10, 2019 | The American Prospect
Google Is Like Facebook — But a Lot Smarter
Big Tech is facing an overdue crisis, but not all Big Tech companies are created equal. It’s useful to compare and contrast two of the biggest players at the center of these investigations: Facebook and Google.
Both have received constant negative press for the last few years, ranging from the stories on the Cambridge Analytica bombshell to Google’s non-stop internal chaos. Both received slaps on the wrist from the Federal Trade Commission, but both are now facing federal and state-level antitrust investigations.
Yet only one has become a full-blown bad guy to the Democratic party.
September 05, 2019
Facebook Dodges Regulation With Wall Street’s Tactics — Confuse And Blame The Public
Facebook fulfilled an old promise last month in the most Facebook way possible: by sounding nice on paper and glossing over the details. Their new privacy tools are a laughably inefficient and insufficient set of measures, because fundamentally, they’re not trying to actually solve the stated problem: Facebook’s surveillance-based business model. It’s more proof that forcing individuals to protect themselves from the abuses of giant corporations is a cruel fantasy. This collective problem will require a collective solution. It’s about time regulators stepped in to do something about it.
July 30, 2019 | BuzzFeed News
Mayor Pete Is Silicon Valley's Hottest New Startup
You might think Big Tech is facing an existential reckoning in Washington, based on recent congressional hearings with Facebook, Amazon, Apple, and Google. Add in Facebook’s $5 billion Federal Trade Commission settlement and the Trump administration pursuing antitrust inquiries into Big Tech while “looking into” Peter Thiel’s accusation that Google has been treasonously collaborating with China and it begins to sound consequential.
But if you look elsewhere — to the fundraising totals released by presidential candidates this month, and perhaps even to this week’s presidential debates — you can glimpse the seeds of the industry’s political revival.
July 28, 2019 | The Daily Beast
Facebook and Equifax Scammed Customers — and Revolving-Door Corporate Lawyers Made Sure They Got Off Easy
Last week, the Federal Trade Commission made clear that dishonestly undermining Americans’ privacy can remain a part of a successful corporation’s business plan. The commission closed its investigations into the two most prominent corporate data breaches in recent memory. The Equifax hack and Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica scandal investigations have yielded back-to-back out-of-court settlements that are all bark, no bite.