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March 28, 2022

Mekedas Belayneh

Blog Post

Anti-MonopolyDepartment of JusticeEthics in GovernmentExecutive BranchTech

The DOJ Should Follow Its Own Guidance on FOIA Administration

The celebration of Sunshine Week earlier this month underscored the importance of the continued effort to ensure effective administration of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and its central role for open democracy. Passed by Congress in 1966, FOIA allows citizens to request unpublished records and information from the federal government. Watchdog organizations have long relied on records obtained from FOIA requests to hold the government accountable to public interests. But, the system comes with a plethora of flaws that prevents adequate timeliness and transparency. Endless backlogs, increased usage of exemptions, partially redacted documents, and outright denials leave much to be desired in the administration of FOIA today.

March 16, 2022

Fatou Ndiaye

Blog Post

ClimateDepartment of JusticeGovernment Capacity

To Take Down Corporate Polluters, the DOJ's Environmental Enforcer Needs More Capacity

Overseen by Assistant Attorney General Todd Kim, the Environment and Natural Resources Division (ENRD) is one of seven litigating components of the Department of Justice (DOJ). The ENRD is divided into ten sections, each with its own area of expertise. The Division fulfills a wide range of responsibilities. For instance, the ENRD is tasked with protecting the nation’s natural resources and enforcing U.S. civil and criminal environmental laws, including the Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act, and hazardous waste laws. The Division also handles tribal rights and resources cases. Other responsibilities include, but are not limited to, “facilitating cleaner energy and ensuring marketplace integrity; defending and adjudicating water rights for Federal agencies and Indian Tribes, as well as policies and decisions that support the generation of clean energy on Federal lands and the outer continental shelf; and, promoting international climate justice activities and the advancement of legislative and policy matters related to climate change.”

March 09, 2022

Hannah Story Brown

Blog Post

ClimateCorporate CrackdownDefenseExecutive Branch

Biden’s Ban on Russian Fuels Could Be a Climate Turning Point

With only a handful of years left to act before catastrophic global climate change becomes irreversible, every day is a high-stakes day for U.S. climate policy. But the past two weeks of Putin’s unconscionable war on Ukraine have been particularly nerve-racking for the future of the energy transition—a transition which is inextricably linked to the future of democracy everywhere. 

March 07, 2022

Timi Iwayemi

Blog Post

cryptocurrencyForeign PolicyTreasury Department

Obscure Agency Must Deny Russian Oligarchs Possible Crypto Sanction Evasion Tool

While it is unlikely that an economy as large as Russia’s can be rerouted through present crypto infrastructure, there remains opportunity for targeted individuals and entities to leverage the industry’s weak compliance mechanisms to move some of their assets. The Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC) and Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FINCEN), in conjunction with the White House’s National Security Council, need to ensure this does not happen. 

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.

February 07, 2022

Fatou Ndiaye

Blog Post

ClimateGovernment Capacity

The Department of Energy Needs More Capacity To Help Prevent A Dim Future

Addressing the climate crisis on a federal level requires, at minimum, that the agencies and departments of the federal government be fully staffed and equipped to implement and enforce regulations. In the Revolving Door Project’s Climate Capacity Crisis Report, we initially found that the Department of Energy (DOE) had relatively higher staffing levels compared to other agencies, though certainly not enough to fulfill its mandate. As of June 2021, Biden’s DOE had hired 79 more STEM employees than were employed by the department in September 2016, whereas the Department of Agriculture, Department of Interior, National Park Service, United States Geological Survey, and the Environmental Protection Agency all lost STEM employees within that same time period. Despite the DOE’s comparably impressive staffing levels, a recent Washington Post article revealed that the department was struggling to stay on top of mounting work, causing unnecessary problems in their fight against the climate crisis.

January 28, 2022

Fatou Ndiaye

Blog Post

Financial RegulationGovernment CapacityHousing

Capacity Shortfalls At The FHFA

The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) is an independent federal agency established by the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008 (HERA) following the 2008-2010 subprime mortgage crisis. Upon its creation, the FHFA replaced the Federal Housing Finance Board (FHFB), the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight (OFHEO), and the GSE mission office at the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The FHFA is responsible for ensuring regulated entities “fulfill their mission by operating in a safe and sound manner to serve as a reliable source of liquidity and funding for the housing finance market throughout the economic cycle.” The agency oversees the supervision, regulation, and housing mission oversight of Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac (the Enterprises) and the Federal Home Loan Bank System, which includes the 11 Federal Home Loan Banks (FHLBanks) and the Office of Finance. 

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.