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July 29, 2020 | Talking Points Memo

Andrea Beaty

Op-Ed

Anti-MonopolyDepartment of JusticeFTCTech

Today’s Congressional Hearing Will Test Big Tech’s Simplest Algorithm: If An Ex-Regulator, Then Hire

The tech companies set to testify before the House today knew for years that a reckoning was in the works. They’ve been building up their defenses, and a key component of that defense is the antitrust enforcement officials who take a trip through the revolving door to the benefit of corporate clients.

May 11, 2020

Miranda Litwak

Blog Post

2020 Election/TransitionCampaign FinanceTech

Biden's Ties to Immigration Enforcement Run Through BigTech

As we creep closer to November’s election, Democratic politicians–progressives and moderates alike–have largely fallen in line behind presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden. Even so, Biden must earn the vote of many progressive voters who are wary of his pro-corporate leanings. While Biden showed promise by teaming up with Sanders’ campaign on policy, there is still cause for grave concern. Just last week, the public learned that Larry Summers was advising the Biden campaign. Last month Biden’s donors put out a list of ideal candidates for senior-level administration positions, which included Wall Street big wigs such as BlackRock CEO Laurence Fink, Blackstone executive Tony James, and investment banker Mark Gallogly. Biden’s wealthy donors must be monitored in order to prevent corporate interests from capturing his transition-planning effort.

April 11, 2020 | Washington Monthly

Max Moran

Op-Ed

Revolving DoorTech

How Big Tech Is Preparing for a Biden Presidency

If Joe Biden wins in November, you can bet that Big Tech’s representatives will do the same thing as every other industry’s political strategists: scour the list of more than four thousand appointments across the executive branch the new president needs to make, and figure out which of their loyalists are ready for a spin through the government’s revolving door.

January 31, 2020

Eleanor Eagan Max Moran

Blog Post

2020 Election/TransitionCampaign FinancePrivate EquityTech

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.

October 23, 2019 | The American Prospect

Max Moran

Op-Ed

Tech

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

Max Moran

Op-Ed

Financial RegulationRevolving DoorTech

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.

September 16, 2019

Max Moran

Blog PostFOIA Request

Revolving DoorTech

Revolving Door Project Probes Thiel's White House Connection

Max Moran
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

Max Moran

Blog Post

Independent AgenciesRevolving DoorTech

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

Max Moran

Op-Ed

Tech

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

Max Moran

Blog Post

Independent AgenciesTech

Facebook Dodges Regulation With Wall Street’s Tactics — Confuse And Blame The Public

Max Moran
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

Jeff Hauser Eleanor Eagan Max Moran

Op-Ed

2020 Election/TransitionCampaign FinanceRevolving DoorTech

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.