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May 17, 2022

Mekedas Belayneh Dorothy Slater

Blog Post

ClimateExecutive BranchIndependent Agencies

One Weird Trick To Prevent the TVA From Building New Gas Plants

The Tennessee Valley Authority, an independent agency of the federal government which acts as a public utility for over 10 million residents in and around Tennessee, announced in March that it would replace two aging coal-fired power plants with gas-powered plants. As the nation’s largest public utility company, the move goes against Biden’s goal to achieve a clean energy grid by 2035. TVA could be leading the charge for renewables, but its fossil fuel CEO Jeff Lyash, who comes out of fossil fuels, is instead choosing to lock in polluting gas for decades. This does not have to be the case. 

May 16, 2022

Andrea Beaty Eleanor Eagan Nika Hajikhodaverdikhan Sion Bell Hannah Story Brown

Blog Post

2020 Election/TransitionAdministrative LawDepartment of Justice

The Trump Administration Made a Mockery of the Law. Why Hasn't Biden Tossed its Cases?

Donald Trump and his Department of Justice consistently made a mockery of the law throughout his four years in power. And while their laughable reasoning and indefensible positions were struck down at a historic rate, many cases were still waiting for Biden. The new administration tossed out a handful immediately but an alarming number remain, either in some form of pause or advancing forward with the Biden administration adopting Trump’s position.

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.

April 25, 2022

Dorothy Slater

Blog Post

2020 Election/TransitionClimateEthics in GovernmentExecutive BranchRevolving Door

What You Need To Know About The Contenders For Biden’s Next Chief Of Staff

Nearly halfway through President Biden’s second year in office, with midterms on the horizon and senior staff either burning out or eager to sell out, “Transition 2.0” — the rapid departure of said senior staff with an influx of new personnel — is growing closer. One position we’re keeping a close eye on is Biden’s next Chief of Staff. Currently filled by Ron Klain, this is Biden’s de facto power broker. He helps the president make decisions and acts as a gatekeeper for the many, MANY forces, good and bad, who’d like to influence the president.

April 19, 2022

Aidan Smith

Blog Post

Congressional OversightCorporate CrackdownExecutive Branch

How The Department Of Commerce Can Combat Economic Malaise

Responsible for creating “conditions for economic growth and opportunity,” the full powers of the DOC must be leveraged to combat economic malaise. Since the modern department was established in 1913, the DOC’s powers have generally been neglected and poorly understood. That’s in part reflective of the DOC’s byzantine structure: it’s a seeming grab-bag of agencies that either don’t fit in neatly with any other department, or are located within the DOC as a result of 20th century political knife-fights. 

April 14, 2022

Eleanor Eagan Timi Iwayemi

Blog Post

cryptocurrencyEthics in GovernmentFederal ReserveFinancial RegulationFintechRevolving Door

Michael Barr is the Wrong Man to Stop the Next Financial Crisis

Over a decade after the financial crisis, few would still dispute that the revolving door between financial regulators and the financial industry helped pave the way for economic disaster. In the years preceding the crash, regulators who came from the country’s largest banks and planned to promptly return to them, removed regulatory restraints and turned a blind eye to the predictably dangerous effects (see, e.g. Robert Rubin and Alan Greenspan). In the next administration, different regulators drawn from the same well let the fraudsters off the hook and left the working people who had fallen victim to them out to dry.  

April 06, 2022

Eleanor Eagan

Blog Post

Ethics in GovernmentFederal Reserve

Congress Should Heed the Lessons from the Federal Reserve's Ethics Scandals

After a stream of stories throughout the pandemic revealed seemingly rampant congressional insider trading, laughable disclosure practices, and nonexistent enforcement, Congress appears finally to be feeling the pressure to clean up its act. In recent weeks, lawmakers have introduced a flurry of new bills to limit conflicts of interest and help restore public trust in our governing institutions.

As they begin to forge a piece of consensus legislation, they should consider that members of Congress were not the only political leaders to violate public trust throughout the pandemic period. The trading scandals within the Federal Reserve system, for example, revealed material ethical deficiencies that have yet to be satisfactorily addressed. It’s important to recognize that these deficiencies are not unique to the Federal Reserve and that they represent an ongoing threat to public trust in other powerful corners of the executive branch as well. To rebuild that trust in government, lawmakers must learn the lessons of the Federal Reserve scandals and develop fixes for these deficiencies there and elsewhere.

April 05, 2022

Dylan Gyauch-Lewis Andrea Beaty

Blog Post

Anti-MonopolyDepartment of JusticeFTCGovernment Capacity

Putting Biden’s Antitrust Budget Increases In Context

The federal government may no longer be operating under the onus of Trump-era austerity, but agencies across the federal government are still far from having the resources they need to quickly and effectively fulfill their responsibilities to the American people. For the most part, President Biden’s proposed FY 2023 budget fails to fill that gap. However, increased funding for antitrust regulation is one of the bright spots in an otherwise uninspired budget. As we have covered in the past, both the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division (ATR) saw staffing levels stagnate and budget allocations that did not keep pace with inflation or GDP growth.