With two months until Inauguration Day and President Donald Trump apparently hellbent on lighting more figurative fires on his way out of office, progressive groups on Friday launched the "No Corporate Cabinet" campaign, increasing pressure on President-elect Joe Biden to keep business insiders and industry lobbyists out of his administration.
The new initiative includes a website that aims to "serve as a central hub for information about, and activism related to, the Biden transition," featuring a news section as well as a "Persons of Interest" page detailing some potential appointees whom Biden is considering but campaign organizers say he "should avoid."
Demand Progress and the Revolving Door Project are leading the effort, in partnership with Climate Investigations Center, Documented, and True North Research.
"The Biden administration has a daunting task ahead, to both undo the corruption of the Trump years and guide the country out of interlinked crises of health, economics, racial injustice, and climate change," Revolving Door Project executive director Jeff Hauser said in a statement announcing the campaign.
"None of that can happen if Biden appoints to his government the same corporate leaders whose profits skyrocketed under Trump, and whose influence over the last four decades generally has led to surging inequality and a crisis of faith in government," Hauser explained. "If Democrats fail to take back the Senate, executive branch powers will be one of Biden's only ways of tangibly improving Americans' lives. He cannot trust corporate America if he hopes to do that."
Today along with @revolvingdoorDC @ClimateWatchdog @itstruenorth @ItsDocumented we launched a new website with information about the Biden transition and our demands for #NoCorporateCabinet.https://t.co/IjUmNxslGE
— Demand Progress (@demandprogress) November 20, 2020
While Biden has decisively won the presidency—even if Trump still refuses to accept it—and Democrats have held on to their House majority, a pair of runoff elections in Georgia scheduled for January 5 are set to determine which party controls the Senate.
Although Politico reported early Friday that "a critical mass of GOP senators said in interviews that Biden has the right to his Cabinet, indicating he may be able to staff his administration largely to his liking," progressives are alarmed by some potential picks.
People on the "Persons of Interest" page include Jason Bordoff, who "rarely sees a fossil fuel project he doesn't support," former BlackRock CEO Larry Fink, and Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo, "a steadfast ally of Wall Street and corporate America throughout her time in politics, selling out pensioners to hedge funds, slashing social services, and making enemies of labor unions."
The page also shines a spotlight on Ernest Moniz—who served as energy secretary during the Obama administration—as well as Heather Zichal, Steve Ricchetti, Bruce Reed, Tony James, Mark Gitenstein, and Brian Deese. Progressives and climate-focused groups have called on Biden to exclude Moniz and former U.S. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota from his transition team or administration due in part to their ties to the fossil fuel industry.
We need a cabinet that will prioritize the needs of the people, not corporate interests.
That starts with appointing strong leaders who will take bold climate action.https://t.co/qHpfQz5b6p
— Ilhan Omar (@IlhanMN) November 15, 2020
"There are a finite number of Cabinet positions. Any Cabinet post given to a recent corporate lobbyist is one less seat that could be filled by a well-qualified person whose record demonstrates a deep commitment to advancing public good rather than private gain," noted Lisa Graves, executive director of True North Research.
Citing "massive financial conflicts in the Trump Cabinet" and the "callous indifference of a Senate majority led by Mitch McConnell," she argued that "personnel is policy and We the People deserve a better Cabinet in the Biden administration, one that reflects the true needs of the American people rather than greed of huge corporations."
Demand Progress executive director David Segal invoked one of the president-elect's key campaign promises, declaring that "if Biden is serious about 'building back better' in a way that remedies the longstanding ills of the country, his administration must be run by people dedicated to working in service of the general welfare."
"Our message is clear," he added. "Joe Biden should not let corporate interests run the government—and, if needed, senators must hold him accountable."
The "No Corporate Cabinet" effort follows a parallel campaign launched Thursday by Daily Kos, Demand Progress, and over 20 other organizations—including MPower Change, Public Citizen, Presente, Ultraviolet, and the Working Families Party—encouraging activists to email, call, and tweet at both the Biden transition team and Senate Democrats to urge them "to appoint public-minded progressives instead of corporate lobbyists and executives for key roles" in the next administration.
Likely voters know who they don’t want in Biden’s Cabinet: corporate executives.@dataprogress found that 59% of likely voters think the Senate should vote against fossil fuel executives, Wall Street executives and those who’ve exploited low-wage labor: https://t.co/nlBVsv6sV3
— Vox (@voxdotcom) November 17, 2020
"Americans are exhausted. We have spent the last four years watching the Trump administration repeatedly put the interests of big businesses and corporate lobbyists over the well-being of everyday people, causing untold suffering—especially during the Covid-19 pandemic," said Carolyn Fiddler, communications director of Daily Kos, said.
As of early Friday afternoon, the coronavirus pandemic had resulted in more than 11.7 million infections across the United States and killed over 253,000 Americans.
"Now more than ever," Fiddler said, "we need leadership that is experienced in corporate accountability and will check the interests of big corporations while advocating for policies that center the health and success of all Americans, especially Americans of color."
Both campaigns came after Demand Progress and the Revolving Door Project led over 50 groups in sending letters urging Biden as well as Democratic senators and senators-elect to reject corporate insiders. In recent days, various organizations have also proposed and rallied around progressive candidates for Cabinet roles.