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May 10, 2022

Toni Aguilar Rosenthal

Blog Post

Government CapacityIndependent AgenciesIRS

The IRS Has Finally Been Given The Power to Rebuild. It’s Not Enough.

In March, six months after the start of Fiscal Year 2022, Congress finally passed an omnibus funding agreement that brought agencies out from under the shadow of Trump-era austerity (although still fell far short of enacting the funding levels that most agencies require to meet their responsibilities to the public). Critically, in the case of at least one agency, the omnibus did not just grant the money to hire new staff, but the means to do so much more quickly. At the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), Congress greenlit the use of direct hiring authorities to empower the agency to temporarily forgo some of the more onerous aspects of the federal hiring process as well as to facilitate a quick rebuilding of the IRS’ notoriously depleted ranks. With this designation, Congress acknowledged that staff shortages at the IRS had reached a state of emergency and thus acted accordingly. 

April 28, 2022

Toni Aguilar Rosenthal

Blog Post

Independent AgenciesIRS

Who Is The IRS’ Chief Counsel? Under Biden, No One.

enforcing the U.S. tax code. Much has been written regarding the IRS’ gutting over the years. The agency has been systematically defunded, deresourced, and attacked by political operatives for decades, at a grave cost to the basic functionality of our government, and to the benefit of only the richest Americans. These trends were only exacerbated under the Trump administration, which was hyper-focused on dismantling the tax system to benefit its corporate and billionaire cronies. Unfortunately, the Trump administration’s destructive influence remains pervasive throughout the IRS, with Trump’s Commissioner, Charles Rettig, still installed as the governing head of the agency while finishing a 5-year term (at the pleasure of the president) set to expire in 2022.

March 03, 2022

Toni Aguilar Rosenthal

Blog Post

Department of JusticeRevolving Door

Revolver Spotlight: Michael Easley Jr. and the Office of the U.S. Attorneys

As officers with extraordinary latitude and immense authority within their districts, U.S. Attorneys have the ability to implement ambitious reforms to the federal legal landscape in a direct and immediate fashion. U.S. Attorneys also have incredible freedom to reorient the undercurrent priorities of the federal legal system and to center historically under prosecuted, but systemic nonetheless, crimes such as corporate and white collar malfeasance. Because of the incredible potential of the position, it is critical that these offices are prioritized in Biden’s staffing of the federal bureaucracy. However, as we have examined previously, the Biden administration has proven remarkably slow in its nominations process for U.S. Attorneys positions, seemingly in part due to an unwillingness to decisively abandon deference to a racist Senate decorum procedure known as blue slips.

February 17, 2022

Toni Aguilar Rosenthal

Blog Post

ClimateFinancial Regulation

Dino Falaschetti and the Decimation of the OFR

The Office of Financial Research (OFR) was established by the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act in 2010. Charged with providing data, analysis, and research regarding systemic financial risks to the members of the Financial Stability Oversight Council (FSOC), OFR is an integral part of the federal infrastructure for safeguarding financial stability. OFR, while not itself a regulatory body, investigates systemic risks, standardizes the data used across government, and can offer financial regulators a more robust empirical base from which to devise regulations. OFR was designed to address the proven inability of financial regulators in the lead up to the Great Recession to understand dangers before threats turned into devastation.

February 11, 2022

Toni Aguilar Rosenthal

Blog Post

Department of JusticeExecutive Branch

Abandon Blue Slips: An Examination of the U.S. Attorneys Office

President Biden campaigned on ambitious reforms to the criminal legal system. Among these promises were key proposals like expanding the use of the President’s clemency powers, reorienting federal prosecutorial priorities, and decentering carcerality in the Federal system. His administration has also promised the public a new focus on white collar and corporate crime as part of a fundamental shift towards systemic accountability instead of individual punishment. Yet, more than a year into Biden’s presidency, many of these promises remain unfulfilled. His Department of Justice (DOJ) – a key tool in the fight for meaningful legal reforms – remains pockmarked by Trump-era officials and lacks the permanent progressive leadership integral to successful reform efforts. U.S. Attorneys’ offices, in particular, remain limited by the standing lack of nominations, confirmations, and stable leadership that persists over a year after President Biden’s inauguration.

January 27, 2022

Toni Aguilar Rosenthal

Blog Post

Government CapacityHousing

Sabotaged HUD Must Rebuild to Fix The Housing Crisis

As the pandemic exacerbates the nation’s ongoing housing crisis, President Biden has promised swift and immediate action. Effectively deploying the federal government’s powers to address this crisis, however, will require more than just good policy and motivated leadership. Past administrations eroded the federal government’s capacity to carry out effective policy to help tenants and homeowners. This administration will need to form new infrastructure, with an outsized focus on staffing reforms, in order to both restore capacity and implement new housing policies that will enable Americans to readily access safe and affordable housing. 

January 24, 2022

Toni Aguilar Rosenthal

Blog Post

ClimateEthics in GovernmentInteriorRevolving Door

Revolver Spotlight: Tommy Beaudreau Is Big Oil’s Back Door to Biden’s Interior

President Biden nominated Tommy Beaudreau to be his Deputy Secretary of the Department of the Interior last April, and he was confirmed to the position by June. Unfortunately, though Biden seeks to be seen as a climate champion, Beaudreau was, and is, a uniquely terrible choice to help helm a climate-focused administration. His revolving door record is extensive, his conflicts of interest are nearly unprecedented, and his (re)installment at the highest circles of the Department of the Interior was ultimately a win for oil and gas conglomerates. 

December 03, 2021

Toni Aguilar Rosenthal

Blog Post

Ethics in GovernmentGovernment CapacityRevolving Door

Active Revolving Door Between Government and Contracting Industry Could Threaten Reform

Officially speaking, the federal government employs just shy of 3.6 million people (2.2 in the civilian workforce and 1.4 in the military). In reality, however, the number of people whose paychecks originate with the federal government (through grants or service contracts) is much larger — around 12 million according to recent estimates. This workforce, and the contracts that sustain it, rarely get much attention in public discourse. Yet, the federal government’s power to set standards and direct funds through contracting is not an insignificant one. President Biden has begun to tap into those powers with directives to raise the minimum wage to $15/hour for federal contractors and institute a vaccine mandate for those same workers. These are strong first steps but they only scratch the surface of what is possible and what is needed to address the many problems that plague federal contracting. Fully harnessing that power, however, will likely require confronting a deep-seated problem: an active revolving door between the offices charged with granting and monitoring federal contracts and the companies that receive them. 

December 02, 2021

Toni Aguilar Rosenthal

Blog Post

ClimateFinancial RegulationGovernment CapacityIndependent Agencies

Climate Finance Capacity Project: Commodity Futures Trading Commission

The Biden Administration was elected to office with an urgent mandate to change our current trajectory towards catastrophic climate change. Climate-focused financial regulation, or the regulation of markets to accurately account for climate risk and the social and material costs of climate-damaging activities, must be a part of this coordinated federal response in order to meaningfully address climate concerns at the governmental level. An agency that is particularly key to this goal is the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC). The CFTC is one of the smallest federal financial regulatory bodies and yet it is responsible for regulating one of the country’s largest markets, derivatives. While it was originally founded to regulate futures trading in commodities, the passage of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act in 2010 expanded the CFTC’s mandate to include swaps markets and broadened the agency’s role in regulating other derivatives, in part due to their extreme volatility and outsized role in the 2008 financial crisis. 

October 29, 2021 | The American Prospect

Fatou Ndiaye Toni Aguilar Rosenthal

Op-Ed

Executive BranchPharmaRevolving Door

Will Biden’s FDA Be Led by a Pharma Guy?

Dr. Robert Califf appears to be the clearest front-runner for the (somehow) still open position of commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration. After floating his name in the press a few weeks ago, President Biden recently met with Califf in private. Such meetings tend to be the final step before a nominee is announced.

There’s just one problem: Califf is a longtime political consultant to Big Pharma and, more recently, to Big Tech. In fact, he’s so tied to those industries that he once earned the ire of a certain crucial senator from West Virginia.