Corporate Crackdown

NEW: Read our essay in Democracy Journal, “What Biden’s Agenda Should Be” (Jan. 13, 2021)

The problem

Corporations are making record profits from unethical or illegal practices, and many elites break laws with near-total impunity. People are angry. Yet despite documented abuses and clear lawbreaking from the most powerful firms across the economy, it seems nothing ever changes and no one is ever really held to account.

This environment breeds justified resentment and disillusionment with our democratic system, which far-right figures are capitalizing upon to the imminent danger of the country and its people. But there has been no equal answer from the Democratic party. For many decades, federal Democrats have presented themselves as the “party of labor” while not doing enough for actual workers. 

Currently, President Biden’s approval ratings are falling. From Biden on down, Democratic Party messaging is not connecting with voters. Warnings about Trump and rising GOP authoritarianism didn’t sway voters in Virginia last fall. And the focus on “unity” and post-partisanship does not make clear who, if anyone, the president and his party stand for. 

To turn its fortunes around, the administration needs an agenda that excites people — not just the base, but also independents and swingable Republicans. We believe an agenda that stresses a clear conflict between the American people and ultra-rich/corporate lawbreakers, and delivers results for ordinary people, will do just that.

In short: It’s time for a Corporate Crackdown. 

Voters want to crack down on corporate crime

A Corporate Crackdown agenda is very popular—including with independents and Republicans!

In recent polling, published in a joint report with RDP titled “Corporate Crackdown Project: Voters Want To Crack Down On Corporate Crime” (Dec. 16, 2021), the polling firm Data for Progress found the following:

  • Voters agree that “Wealthy people and corporations are regularly not punished for breaking the law” (net margin +67 points) and “The criminal justice system unfairly targets poor people over rich people” (net +48 points). 
  • Voters of all stripes disapprove of Wall Street bankers (-36 net favorability) and pharmaceutical companies (-16). 
  • 83 percent of voters of all parties believe regular Americans pay the price when the crimes of wealthy people and corporations go unpunished. 
  • By a +79-point margin, voters across party lines agree that failing to hold wealthy and corporate criminals accountable harms public trust in government and the rule of law.
  • 70 percent of respondents across party lines agree the Biden administration should be doing more to crack down on corporate crime.
  • 77 percent of voters across party lines agree that CEOs of companies that commit criminal acts should face legal penalties, including possible jail time. 
  • Voters hold favorable views of agencies with power to rein in corporate crime, including:
    • Department of Justice (DOJ) (+14 points)
    • Department of Labor (DOL) (+29 points overall, +8 among Republicans
    • Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) (63% approval, including 52% of Republicans).

Read the full polling memo from Data for Progress here.

The Administration can take enforcement action now, using its existing authority, without new laws from Congress 

New legislation is unlikely to move for much of 2022, especially legislation that challenges the ultrarich forces corroding our politics.  New regulations, while indispensable, are slow to write and vulnerable to court challenges. Given that reality, bold and highly public enforcement of existing anti-white-collar crime law is the best way to deliver immediate, visible results that show ordinary people what Democrats do for them.

Potential Corporate Crackdown enforcement actions could include:

  • Cracking down on the cottage industry of union-busting legal consultants employed by many of the most abusive firms; 
  • Prosecuting Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook for rampant fraud;
  • Indicting ex-Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenberg for the hundreds of deaths in the 737 MAX tragedy that occurred on his watch; 
  • Put financial penalties on hospitals that don’t fully comply with federal rules requiring them to disclose health care prices.
  • Use the Federal Maritime Commission to enforce maritime laws in the shipping sector, combating price-gouging and restoring sanity to the supply chain.
  • Direct the Environmental Protection Agency to more strongly enforce clean water laws.

Biden and his appointees should also do more to talk to the public about what they’re doing about corporate power, and point out (rightly) that Republicans, who are bought and paid for by corporate interests, did not and will not do the same. 

Read our essay in Democracy Journal, “What Biden’s Agenda Should Be” (Jan. 13, 2021)

What’s next from the Revolving Door Project

Our twice-a-month Corporate Crackdown Updates newsletter highlights examples of corporate and elite lawbreaking that the Biden administration can take action against right now, delivering wins for the American people. Check out past editions, and contact moran@therevolvingdoorproject.org to sign up!

Our past and future issue-area reports lay out the federal powers at the Administration’s disposal to crack down on illicit behavior in areas such as shipping, transportation, and climate.

Follow us on Twitter and follow #CorporateCrackdown for updates every weekday on what the administration is and isn’t doing to bring C-Suites and white-collar criminals across the country to heel.

Check out our body of work on the Corporate Crackdown Project below!

May 09, 2022

Max Moran

Newsletter

Corporate Crackdown

CORPORATE CRACKDOWN UPDATES: 5/9/22

Closing in on toxins, the EPA is ramping up its enforcement by banning the use of weedkiller diuron and increasing its detection of PFAS chemicals in public water. Plus, the SEC’s new ‘Cyber Unit’ and DOL officials are keeping a close eye on the inclusion of cryptocurrency in Fidelity’s 401k plan.

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. 

March 15, 2022 | The American Prospect

Hannah Story Brown

Op-Ed

ClimateCorporate CrackdownDepartment of JusticeEthics in GovernmentExecutive BranchIndependent Agencies

Where the Government’s Environmental Lawyers Stand

Joe Biden pledged that as president he would hold polluters accountable. But in 2021, the number of criminal cases against polluters referred to the Justice Department dropped even lower than the year before. At best, DOJ officials have set their sights on bringing environmental crime enforcement back up to Obama-era levels—but not exceeding them. That’s a decidedly muted goal; environmental crimes enforcement was higher under George W. Bush than Obama, and has always been underfunded.

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 04, 2022 | The American Prospect

Eleanor Eagan

Op-Ed

Corporate Crackdown

To Unify the Country, Biden Must Name Corporate Villains

With his approval numbers continuing their steady decline and a potentially bruising midterm contest looming, President Biden used his first State of the Union address to lay out a policy agenda that enjoys overwhelming popular support. Yet, as intuitive as that approach appears on its face, it’s a safe bet that the speech will not make a lasting difference for Biden or his party’s political fortunes. That’s in part because most of the policies that Biden touted require congressional approval and have no discernible path forward in the 50-50 Senate (not to mention the fact that only a small fraction of Americans tuned in to listen).