NEW: Read our essay in Democracy Journal on “What Biden’s Agenda Should Be” (Jan. 13, 2022)
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 as though nothing ever changes and no one is ever really held to account.
This environment breeds justified resentment and disillusionment with our democratic system, emotions 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 flagging. 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.
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 inform 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, 2022)
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 email@example.com 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, labor, climate and more.
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!
March 01, 2023 | The American Prospect
ClimateConsumer ProtectionCorporate CrackdownExecutive BranchGovernanceGovernment Capacity
Calling Deficit Squawks’ Bluff on Environmental Enforcement
A 38-car train wreck. Toxic chemicals seeping into water and soil, and a black plume rising in the sky. Sick people, sick pets. As the Prospect’s Jarod Facundo wrote last week, the national spotlight remains fixed on the ecological consequences of the February 3 derailment of a Norfolk Southern train carrying hazardous chemicals in East Palestine, Ohio.
In the context of this ecological disaster, arguing for a reduced budget for federal investigators, air and water quality testing, and programs that hold polluting corporations accountable for proper cleanup and restitution is sheer madness. But that’s exactly what the current right-wing push for massive government spending cuts in the name of deficit reduction would entail.
February 08, 2023 | Revolving Door Project Newsletter
Hannah Story Brown Ananya Kalahasti
Will the White House Let Covid Vaccine Prices Skyrocket?
Since the early days of the pandemic, the federal government has been pre-purchasing Covid vaccines at an average cost of around $20 per dose (around $29 per dose for the bivalent boosters) to ensure public access to vaccination at no cost. However, with Congress no longer willing to fund Covid treatment, the Biden administration has indicated that it intends to end the Covid public health emergency in May, and more or less hand over control of Covid prevention to the healthcare industry.
February 08, 2023
Bankers’ Complaints About Junk Fee Crackdown Offer Biden an Opening
The President should remind Wall Street that hard-working Americans hate getting ripped off.
January 25, 2023 | Revolving Door Project Newsletter
Hannah Story Brown Emma Marsano
Corporate CrackdownEthics in GovernmentExecutive BranchHealthRevolving Door
Biden’s Choice of Chief of Staff Threatens Populist Potential
Last Friday marked the exact midway point of Biden’s presidential term. With this newly divided Congress, there are scant possibilities for legislation in the next two years. By and large, this next stage of Biden’s presidency should be all about the executive branch: implementing recent laws, enforcing existing laws, and enacting much-needed regulation. (Biden should have been overseeing these things all along, of course—that’s what the Presidency is for!)
January 04, 2023 | Revolving Door Project Newsletter
These Airline Meltdowns Aren’t Inevitable
As 2022 ends and 2023 begins with record-breaking winter heat blanketing Europe and much of the south and north-eastern United States—68°F and humid in DC, in January!—climate change is in the air, if not on the legislative agenda. We expect that much of the hard-won climate progress in the next year will be in executive branch implementation and regulation, alongside state-level legislation and court cases.
November 11, 2022
What Tasty Egg On Our Faces!
Democrats defied expectations, including ours. But why do we have these expectations in the first place?
November 09, 2022
"Aggressive Mundaneness" Doomed Democrats, Government Watchdog Argues
The Project’s memo argues that Democrats did not clearly articulate what they stand for by making unpopular enemies and provoking fights with specific, unpopular villains.
October 26, 2022 | Revolving Door Project Newsletter
Politicking Is Storytelling; Stories Need Conflict
Much has been made of recent polls showing the erosion of support for Democrats ahead of the midterms, tied to voters’ profound economic pessimism. As always, wading through the morass of bad takes (looking at you, Ross Douthat) can put many off the task of meaning-making about public political opinion altogether. Our line of thinking in these final weeks before the election remains much the same as it was back in January, when our Jeff Hauser and Max Moran outlined an argument for what Biden’s message should be.
September 08, 2022 | The American Prospect
To Save The Climate, Hire More Civil Servants
The kind of civil service we build is indicative of what our climate strategy will be.
September 05, 2022
Biden Can Take Climate Action Across Range Of Executive Powers, New Report Shows
“Alone, these executive branch policies are wildly insufficient to the task of getting America to meet its climate goals. But all of these policies are necessary components of the puzzle, and represent the lowest-hanging fruit in terms of climate action.”
July 28, 2022
CORPORATE CRACKDOWN UPDATES: 7/28/22
Welcome to the seventh edition of the Revolving Door Project’s Corporate Crackdown Project newsletter! Presented by the people who infuriate the sponsors of other newsletters.
July 13, 2022 | Revolving Door Project Newsletter
Confirmation CrisisCorporate CrackdownDepartment of JusticeEthics in Government
Only Through Change Can We Save Our Institutions Now
So the rollercoaster ride continues, deep into the summer. Thankfully, while Congress is in session—and these next three weeks of negotiation are expected to be deeply consequential for the future of the clean energy transition—the Supreme Court is not. (Well, let’s hope they don’t abuse the “Shadow Docket” [pdf]). We shouldn’t have to hear from them again until the first Monday of October. But of course, after months of waiting with heightened anxiety for Dobbs v. Jackson, West Virginia v. EPA, and many other rulings to drop, the Supreme Court had to leave us with something new to worry over as they headed out the door for summer vacation: Moore v. Harper.
June 01, 2022
New Papers Explore Biden’s Climate Options At Justice Department, Economics Agencies
The Climate Corporate Crackdown series explores how the federal government can use existing law to bring corporate polluters and greenhouse gas emitters to heel and shift the American economy off of fossil fuels and toward a more equitable and sustainable future.
May 18, 2022 | Revolving Door Project Newsletter
Biden Goes Beast Mode On Bezos, Corporate Crackdown Style
The 46th president going full Haymarket Hulk is not something anyone anticipated over a year ago, when Biden told America that if elected he’d be the “most pro-union president” ever. In the past, he’s gone off script during speeches to support the reawakened labor movement, only to have his words walked back by cautious press secretaries and the peanut gallery of advisors whispering “triangulation” in his ear. But in the past week Biden now seems to have decisively broke with the third way approach, hewing to the corporate crack down agenda–which RDP has long advocated–through a series of high profile union endorsements and their ensuing fallout.
May 17, 2022
Here's What Biden Can Do Without Congress
The good news is that the executive branch could do a LOT.