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

In the coming weeks, RDP will highlight examples of corporate and elite lawbreaking that the Biden administration can take action against right now, delivering wins for the American people.

RDP and Data For Progress are collaborating on future issue-area reports, which will lay out the federal powers at the Administration’s disposal to crack down on illicit behavior in areas such as shipping, transportation, and climate.

January 13, 2022 | Democracy Journal

Jeff Hauser Max Moran


Corporate Crackdown

What Biden’s Message Should Be

Americans were more divided than ever in 2021, but everyone in the country still agreed on one thing: The Democratic Party has a messaging problem.

“We’ve got a national branding problem that is probably deeper than a lot of people suspect,” Democratic pollster Brian Stryker, who is currently working with the centrist think tank Third Way to understand why Democrats lost the recent governors’ race in Virginia told The New York Times. “I’m not going to argue it’s working right now, but I need it to work when it matters,” Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-NY), chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee told The Washington Post in November of the Democrats’ efforts to sell their legislative victories. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) seemingly agrees, telling attendees at a recent fundraising dinner that “Democrats are terrible at messaging. It’s just a fact.”