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May 13, 2021

Henry Burke

Blog Post

2020 Election/TransitionGovernment CapacityIndependent Agencies

100 Days in Office and Biden is Outpacing Obama

Presidents are only as effective as the administrations they assemble. FDR’s “brain trust,” for example, drove his effective first term. As President Biden seeks to surpass his predecessors’ accomplishments and become the most effective president of the past 60 years, the staff with whom he surrounds himself are essential. For over a thousand members of his team, Senate confirmation stands between them and the critical task ahead, making it crucial that Biden quickly make nominations to get these senior leaders working towards his vision as soon as possible. As the traditional post-New Deal metric of how a young administration is performing, the 100th day in office is a chance to look back on the Biden administration’s progress thus far and compare it to the Obama administration.

May 13, 2021 | The American Prospect

Max Moran Dorothy Slater Zena Wolf

Op-Ed

2020 Election/TransitionClimateEthics in GovernmentFinancial Regulation

Plumbing The Depths At The SEC

Progressives have generally seen Gary Gensler, the newly confirmed chair of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), as a loyal advocate for the public interest. His tenure at the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) was one of the few bright spots in Barack Obama’s financial regulatory regime. But in April, Gensler named Alex Oh to be his director of enforcement, before she resigned a week later amid negative media attention. Before joining the SEC, Oh had directly facilitated an ExxonMobil executive’s obstinate deposition testimony (reportedly read off an attorney-drafted script) in the face of plaintiff objections—and the case itself centered on accusations of torture, rape, and murder by ExxonMobil-hired guards in an Indonesian village.

April 29, 2021 | The New Republic

Eleanor Eagan

Op-Ed

2020 Election/TransitionGovernment Capacity

Trump Holdovers Are Dragging Down the Biden Agenda

During his campaign, Joe Biden repeatedly held out the promise of an FDR-size presidency—the better to counter the misrule of the Trump administration. It can be said that he has already made some admirable strides in that direction with the passage of the American Rescue Plan. As Biden reaches his 100th day in office, however, he may soon find that comparisons to his self-identified North Star don’t quite measure up. Roosevelt, after all, famously signed 15 major bills into law during his first 100 days, compared to Biden’s one (which isn’t to diminish the size or importance of that single accomplishment). Biden and his allies can, of course, point to considerable obstacles that Roosevelt didn’t need to surmount, such as the Democratic Party’s slimmer margins and the fact that the president does not literally control Congress.

April 29, 2021 | Talking Points Memo

Eleanor Eagan

Op-Ed

2020 Election/Transition

The Rules Dems Could Change To Keep The Tom Cottons Of The Senate From Delaying Biden Noms’ Confirmations

Forty. That’s how many of Joe Biden’s nominees the Senate will have likely confirmed when his presidency crosses the 100-day mark this Friday. On average, it took these nominees 49 days to move from nomination to confirmation. With over 1,100 seats throughout the executive branch left to fill (not to mention hundreds more in the Judiciary), that glacial pace should worry you. Unfortunately, it can get even slower. And thanks to Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR), it looks like it’s about to.

April 28, 2021

Zena Wolf

Blog Post

2020 Election/TransitionClimateFinancial Regulation

Revolver Spotlight: Alex Oh

Last week, SEC Commissioner Gary Gensler named corporate BigLaw partner Alex Oh as Director of Enforcement of the SEC. Oh’s nomination, especially in an agency tasked with holding Big Banks accountable, is deeply concerning given her history working for some of the worst corporate influences. Oh, who has served as a partner at the BigLaw firm Paul Weiss since 2004, has taken on clients with direct conflicts of interest including Big Banks, fossil fuel companies, and Big Pharma.

April 28, 2021

Dorothy Slater

Blog Post

2020 Election/TransitionClimateFinancial Regulation

SEC's New Enforcement Director, Alex Oh, Is Bad News For Climate

Progressives and climate activists were initially heartened by the prospect of Gary Gensler at the helm of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the regulatory powerhouse responsible for regulating coordinating stock trading. And some of Gensler’s initial staffing decisions also inspired plaudits. However, we were shocked when SEC Chairman Gensler announced last week he would appoint veteran Wall Street defense lawyer Alex Oh to lead the SEC’s powerful enforcement division. This appointment is an absolute rejection of progressive values, not to mention climate reality.

April 27, 2021

Blog Post

2020 Election/TransitionCriminal JusticeDepartment of Justice

Questions for Joe Biden and Merrick Garland’s Department of Justice

Amid a transition season of bruising battles between progressives and the old guard over Biden’s Cabinet picks, Merrick Garland for Attorney General was one choice that sparked relatively little controversy. Three months into Biden’s presidency, however, Garland is quickly shaping up to be the most consequentially bad Cabinet pick. On any number of important metrics — sweeping out holdovers from the Trump administration and reversing its positions, preventing corporate capture, and acting aggressively to advance the public interest — Garland is failing.

April 19, 2021 | The Daily Beast

Miranda Litwak

Op-Ed

2020 Election/TransitionAnti-Monopoly

Silicon Valley’s Favorite Fixer Aims to Stop the Rising Left

But the old guard continues to wield significant power and will be hard pressed to admit defeat, as exemplified by political strategist Bradley Tusk’s continued success. Some might recall Tusk as New York Mayor Bill De Blasio’s biggest critic. Others know him best as Silicon Valley’s favorite political fixer. Teachers’ unions probably remember him comparing them to the NRA. Tusk’s particular brand of politics—lobbying against regulation on behalf of companies he then invests in—in some ways represents the last gasp of corporate control over government that has run rampant since the Reagan era.

April 14, 2021

Henry Burke

Blog Post

2020 Election/TransitionGovernment Capacity

Biden’s Build Back Better is Behind Schedule

On the campaign trail, Biden was reluctant to criticize any aspect of the “Obama-Biden” administration’s record. Since taking office, however, he has made perfectly clear that he is aware of, and has learned from, many of its mistakes. Having watched how an anemic stimulus package in 2009 delivered a slow, faltering recovery and political carnage, the Biden administration chose to go big with its economic response. This initial, consequential departure has earned Biden accolades and prompted a “growing narrative that he’s bolder and bigger-thinking than President Obama” (a narrative Biden reportedly loves). But while Biden may be surpassing Obama legislatively, he is lagging behind him when it comes to the pace of nominations, delaying policy implementation and preventing his administration from reaching its full potential.