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April 11, 2020 | Washington Monthly
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.
March 13, 2020 | Talking Points Memo
Trump’s Failing Coronavirus Response is Standard Issue Republicanism in 2020
“He’s got a certain talent for this,” President Donald Trump said of Vice President Mike Pence when entrusting him with the response to the COVID-19 coronavirus crisis. Pence’s perpetual grimace is the new face of the U.S. response to the coronavirus, after a chaotic week when the White House health team’s internecine squabbles and revolving-door corruption got a bit too public for Trump’s comfort. GOP operatives are likely relieved that their “adult in the room” has taken over. After all, Pence may be a fundamentalist zealot, but he is at least an actual “normal” policy-maker.
March 11, 2020
The Coronavirus Crisis: A Who's-Who of Trumpian Mismanagement
The COVID-19 coronavirus is a public health emergency unlike any the United States has faced in decades, but it is also one which the federal government has tools to counter. Unfortunately, the Trump administration is wielding those tools.
February 27, 2020 | The American Prospect
The Trump Administration’s Contemptuous, Pro-Corporate Response to Coronavirus
The COVID-19 coronavirus is nearly a global pandemic. The Centers for Disease Control’s latest statement warns Americans “to prepare, in the expectation that this could be bad.” Amid a global crisis like this, the public needs true leadership from the president and his top aides, and a highly competent government deserving of the people’s trust, with the capacity to effectively respond to incoming threats.But this is the Trump administration. So instead, we are being asked to put our faith in inexperienced political cronies, servicing the needs of corporations rather than the public, and contemptuous of science, scientists, and the idea of expertise.
February 06, 2020 | Democracy Journal
Personnel is Policy
We’ve become accustomed, watching the Democratic debates, to hearing the moderators focus on the practicability of candidates’ plans to move to Medicare for All, reform immigration policy, and fight gun violence. Make no mistake, these bills are important. They’re the type of policies a functional Congress would advance, and markers of a candidate’s vision for the country. But the media’s near-exclusive focus on these legislative proposals is deeply flawed.
January 13, 2020
The Revolving Door Project and Demand Progress Call On Lawmakers to Investigate Revolving Door's Influence on SEC's WeCompany Review
On January 13, the Revolving Door Project and the Demand Progress Education Fund called on the Chairs and Ranking Members of the House Financial Services and Senate Banking Committees to “open an investigation into the Securities and Exchange Commission’s review of WeCompany’s aborted Initial Public Offering (IPO) and the integrity of its investigation into potential securities fraud within that same company.”
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 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.
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.”
August 16, 2019
SEC Chief Accountant's Trip(s) through the Revolving Door are Emblematic of a Broader Problem
In May, Wesley Bricker, the Securities and Exchange Commission’s (SEC) Chief Accountant, announced that he was stepping down. Early last month, we learned where he had landed: PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), one of the “Big Four” auditors, as Vice Chair and Assurance Leader for the US and Mexico. With this move, Bricker has completed his fourth turn through the revolving door between PwC and the SEC. Although seemingly remarkable, his career trajectory is emblematic of the nearly nonexistent lines between regulators and those they are tasked with regulating. As this example makes clear, reforming agencies like the SEC so that they work for the public good will not just be a matter of choosing good commissioners, but of changing the culture and expectations for personnel throughout all echelons of these entities.
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.
July 22, 2019
Revolving Door Project Requests Info On Big Tech Regulators
The Revolving Door Project’s mission is to scrutinize the nexus of corporate power and the executive branch. In the United States, two agencies within the executive branch have the power to seek to break up a company: The Federal Trade Commission (FTC), and the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) Antitrust Division. That is why it is important that we research any entanglements undermining the FTC and DOJ Antitrust’s commitment to serving the public interest.
May 16, 2019
The Oversight Options Available to the House Financial Services Committee
Eleanor Eagan and Jeff Hauser
The financial industry has been the driving force behind some of the most damaging economic trends of our time. In spite of this fact, since the spasm of reform reflected in the Dodd Frank Act, financiers have faced very little scrutiny from lawmakers. Instead of regulating the industry, many governing officials from both parties have chosen to collect campaign checks in exchange for helpful votes. Maxine Waters has rejected this complacency in favor of aggressive oversight. The committee’s failure to oversee the industry for so long, however, has left a significant backlog of issues to examine, in addition to the plethora of new and novel issues emerging under this administration. In an effort to help advocates and members of the public understand the scope of the task that the House Financial Services Committee (HFSC) faces, the Revolving Door Project has compiled a list of problems that deserve the committee’s scrutiny.