Government Capacity

March 17, 2021

Newsletter

2020 Election/TransitionGovernment CapacityIndependent Agencies

The Financial Conflicts Lurking Around the Corner

Almost two months after he took office, Biden’s Cabinet is nearing completion. Nearly all of the six remaining spots seem set to be filled in relatively short order. Now, with the senior-most leadership in place, more permanent hiring for other political roles is likely to accelerate. And with that in mind progressives and good government groups are engaging in another push to ensure that public interest-minded officials populate all levels of political leadership. On Thursday, 46 groups sent a letter to Chief of Staff Ron Klain asking that new hires at the Justice Department not hail from BigLaw and that those with connections to firms who have already been hired recuse from policy and personnel decisions that could impact former clients. When asked whether the Biden administration would heed that call, White House spokesperson Jen Psaki was noncommittal. That’s disappointing — demanding recusals from BigTech and BigLaw tied hires should be a no-brainer (and, in fact, it’s already a step down from our preferred solution, which is not to appoint them at all) — but, if there’s one thing the administration should know by now, it’s that we’ll not be letting them off the hook when it comes to conflicts of interest.

February 12, 2021 | Talking Points Memo

Mariama Eversley

Op-Ed

Department of JusticeGovernment Capacity

Resignation of Trump-Appointed US Attorneys Is Just The Start Of DOJ’s De-Trumpification

In the Reconstruction era following the Civil War, the Department of Justice was created in part to deliver and oversee equal rights to formerly enslaved Black men and women. This corrective institution was a major step toward building a federal government that protects the civil rights of all its citizens. In the wrong hands, however, the department can be weaponized. Whether through inaction or outright hostility on issues ranging from white-collar crime to mass incarceration, the values animating the nation’s top law enforcement agency matter.

February 08, 2021

Press Release

Government Capacity

Impeachment Just the Start: Lawmakers Must Reverse Trump's Damage to the Civil Service

This week, the Senate begins its historic second impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump centered on his attempt to overthrow the 2020 presidential election results by inciting an insurrection on the US Capitol that ultimately resulted in five deaths. Yet, rather than a singularly heinous act unmoored from the rest of his presidency, Trump’s attempted coup was the culmination of years of attacks on the federal government. Today, the Revolving Door Project released a memo, “Existential Threat to the Civil Service: Politicization Under Trump,” which charts Trump’s long war on the people and agencies that constitute the backbone of our country.

January 29, 2021

Miranda Litwak

Press Release

2020 Election/TransitionGovernment Capacity

Progressives Vehemently Object To Cass Sunstein’s Plans To Return To Government

The American Prospect reported today that Cass Sunstein, the former Administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA), is telling colleagues he is in line for a job in the Biden Administration. Environmental, labor, consumer advocacy, and progressive economic groups are united in their disdain toward Sunstein for his attacks on common-sense regulation throughout his time in the Obama Administration.

January 27, 2021

Press Release

Government Capacity

Revolving Door Project: Biden Must Use Available Tools to Grow Civil Service Quickly

Last week, Joe Biden assumed the presidency amid multiple, overlapping, short- and long-term crises. The list of priorities for the new administration is long and fights over the relative emphasis placed on each are surely incoming. To sidestep these ugly battles and ensure that his administration rises to meet each of these pressing crises, President Joe Biden must use all available powers to rebuild the federal government’s capacity to act in the public interest. The Revolving Door Project’s latest memo, “Rapid Reinforcements: A Guide to Federal Hiring Authorities,” enumerates the authorities that a Biden administration can and should use to scale up civil service capacity quickly.

January 21, 2021

Ella Fanger Sion Bell

Blog Post

2020 Election/TransitionEthics in GovernmentGovernment Capacity

To Build Back Better, Biden Must Fix Government

Yesterday, Joe Biden was sworn in as the 46th President of the United States. President Biden has promised to build back a better America, but he faces a steep climb to reach this lofty goal. The nation is still reeling from an ongoing pandemic and recession, and the government has had to cope with massive shocks to the civil service, morale, and its basic functions during the Trump administration. To make good on his promise, Biden will need to undo the damage from Trump and decades of right-wing actions to undermine governance.

January 19, 2021 | Slate

Eleanor Eagan

Op-Ed

Congressional OversightGovernment Capacity

Trump Has Quietly Hollowed Out the Government

Over four years, federal workers were ignored, subjected to retaliation, and fired for articulating politically inconvenient truths or standing in the way of President Donald Trump’s attacks against the public. By all accounts, that is set to change under President-elect Joe Biden. But while new attacks may not be forthcoming, the fissures from old ones will remain, threatening the federal government’s structural integrity unless the next administration and Congress take action. For all that we know about Trump’s assaults on the federal workforce, there is likely more that remains hidden. Up to this point, Democratic leadership has failed to make combating or uncovering these incursions a priority. For the sake of the Biden administration’s success, that will need to change.

January 12, 2021

Zena Wolf

Blog Post

2020 Election/TransitionForeign PolicyGovernment Capacity

With Bill Burns At CIA, A Hopeful Move Toward Civil Service Revitalization

At the Revolving Door Project, we have frequently emphasized the importance of strengthening the civil service to ensure government works for public service and doesn’t cater to the interest of powerful people and corporations. We warned about how too much reliance on political appointments in the executive branch reduces accountability, citing academic research that political appointees perform worse than career managers. Especially in the Trump era, we have seen numerous examples of political appointees using the government for personal gain. Biden’s selection of William Burns, a career diplomat, as his CIA director should therefore be widely praised by progressives as a step towards restoring the civil service and depoliticizing the American intelligence community.

January 12, 2021

Mariama Eversley

Blog Post

Government Capacity

Schedule F Still Poses a Grave Threat to the Civil Service

From the moment President Trump took office, he has been on a warpath with the civil service. He and his associates have waged an open war (and likely one behind closed doors as well) to seize control over federal employees just out of reach of easy firing. In October, as his presidency appeared rapidly to be approaching its end, he lobbed a bomb at the civil service system.

December 21, 2020

Press Release

Government Capacity

Revolving Door Project Statement on Congressional Leaders' Failure to Protect the Civil Service

On Sunday Congress announced that it had reached a deal on a $1.4 trillion omnibus spending bill that will keep the federal government funded through September. The package includes $1.375 billion for the border wall — sticking the incoming administration with a costly, unpopular, and inhumane project — and does nothing to halt President Trump’s attack on the civil service through the creation and implementation of the new “Schedule F” civil service classification.

November 20, 2020 | The American Prospect

Eleanor Eagan Mariama Eversley

Op-Ed

2020 Election/TransitionGovernment CapacityIndependent Agencies

Joe Biden Must Not Look for Unity in Mitch McConnell’s Obstruction

Last week, Mitch McConnell chose to fan the flames of baseless electoral conspiracy rather than acknowledge Joe Biden’s indisputable victory. Meanwhile, prominent Democrats took to the airwaves to insist that working with McConnell would not be nearly as hard as people claimed. This is dangerous, wishful thinking.