A new letter from four dozen progressive groups urges the Biden campaign to commit to having "an administration that is devoid of serious conflicts of interest and unequivocally committed to advancing the public interest above all else."
The effort, which was co-organized by Demand Progress and the Revolving Door Project, focuses on Americans' "trust deficit" in their government. Trust was "already frighteningly low prior to Donald Trump's rise to power," and it's continued a downward trend since he took office, the groups wrote.
"Trump did not write the current playbook, even as he has pushed it to new extremes. Steven Mnuchin is, after all, far from the first Treasury Secretary to hail from Goldman Sachs," the letter, released Wednesday, states.
David Segal, executive director of Demand Progress, says that evidence of the status quo's failure— and reasons for Americans' mistrust in government—abound.
"There is a longstanding bipartisan propensity to hand government posts to well-connected elites who've made, or seek to make, millions of dollars from the industries they're supposed to steward while in office. This has warped governance away from what's best for the public in every single issue area—causing warranted mistrust and leading to policies that exacerbate inequality, enable corporate abuses, foment military adventurism, waste untold sums of public money, and undercut faith in American democracy," Segal said in a statement.
Other signatories to the letter include Americans for Financial Reform, Indivisible, Union of Concerned Scientists, and Win Without War.
Specifically, the groups are asking the 2020 presidential candidates "to commit not to appoint any individual to a senior policy role in an agency or department with authority over any industry in which that individual held a senior position or served in an advisory capacity within the last five years." Those terms should be applied to members of the presidential transition team as well, the letter says.
"In an administration dominated by revolving door appointees, policies challenging powerful interests face a harder road to enactment, and government priorities tend towards those of well-connected elites," the letter states. "Adherence to this status quo has contributed to the perception that all politicians, no matter their party, are corrupt and actively working to uphold a system that is rigged against regular people."
It's time for "a new vision for executive branch leadership," the letter says, adding that the winner of the presidential election in November must "build public trust through their choice of appointees. There should be no room for doubt that their selections serve no interest but the public's."
According to Jeff Hauser, the executive director of the Revolving Door Project, that change is overdue.
"Whether a transition is shaped by a Citigroup executive, as with Michael Froman under President Obama, or by private equity executives and Goldman Sachs officials, as under President Trump, the end result is an executive branch unwilling to take on the excesses of corporate power," he said.
"In 2021, America deserves a different, more public interest minded approach to governance," said Hauser.
Click here to see the full letter and list of signatories.