President-elect Joe Biden has reportedly decided to nominate former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg to lead the Transportation Department, handing a powerful cabinet position to an erstwhile Democratic presidential rival whose campaign was fueled in part by donations from companies he could soon be tasked with overseeing.
Jeff Hauser, executive director of the Revolving Door Project, noted in a blog post Tuesday that Buttigieg's 2020 presidential campaign "raked in large contributions from top executives at major technology and defense corporations like Google (from whom he received over $44,000), Apple (from whom he received over $16,000), Amazon (over $12,000), and Raytheon (over $8,000)."
"Public disclosures show that all four of these companies have repeatedly lobbied the Department of Transportation in the last year," Hauser wrote. "Other major corporations whose executives donated to Buttigieg include Apple, Walmart, and Allstate, as well as several members on the boards of Boeing, JetBlue, and American Airlines (all of whom, again, have lobbied DOT in the last year). Bradley Tusk, a former lobbyist for Uber who made more than $100 million helping the rideshare giant expand operations in New York, was one of the Buttigieg campaign's top fundraiser hosts."
Uber & Lyft must be ECSTATIC.
If you have a newfangled scheme to undermine workers by deploying the language of management consultants and futurism... Pete is the credulous mark you seek. https://t.co/FFaigmm8ju
— Jeff Hauser (@jeffhauser) December 13, 2020
Biden's selection of Buttigieg—who, if confirmed, would be the first openly LGBTQ person to serve as a cabinet secretary—comes in the wake of speculation that the president-elect was reportedly considering Rahm Emanuel, the notorious former mayor of Chicago, for the transportation post. Biden is now weighing a "high-level ambassadorship" for Emanuel, according to Business Insider.
Buttigieg was widely considered to be a lock for some position in the Biden administration following his decision to drop out of the presidential race just before Super Tuesday and endorse the former vice president, helping Biden consolidate moderate support and defeat Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) for the Democratic nomination.
But as Politico put it Tuesday, "Buttigieg's landing spot comes as a surprise given his thin transportation policy resume." The former South Bend mayor reportedly rejected the idea of serving as director of Office of Management and Budget, saying he wanted a "real" cabinet post, not a "staff-level" role.
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"If confirmed," Politico noted, "Buttigieg will head to Washington to take responsibility for nearly 55,000 employees, an $87 billion budget and more than a dozen administrations, overseeing the nation's airspace, highway system, pipeline safety, and much more."
Pointing to a list of significantly more experienced candidates Biden was considering before he picked Buttigieg, The Revolving Door Project tweeted that "the position of secretary of transportation should be granted to someone with actual expertise and passion for transportation issues."
"It should not be a political consolation prize," the group added.
The position of Secretary of Transportation should be granted to someone with actual expertise and passion for transportation issues. It should not be a political consolation prize. https://t.co/kdbSczj1Gx
— The Revolving Door Project (@revolvingdoorDC) December 15, 2020
Among those who raised concerns about Buttigieg's record following weekend reports that he had emerged as a leading contender for the Transportation Department post were South Bend Councilman-elect Henry Davis Jr. and local Black Lives Matter organizer Jorden Giger.
In a call held hours before news of Buttigieg's nomination broke, Davis Jr. said the former South Bend Mayor "did a really bad job for this community and my district in particular."
"Bus lines have been shut down and cut off in one of the poorest census tracts in this country," he added.
Giger said during the call that "hurting Black communities is not worth the price of doing a political favor for Pete Buttigieg because he endorsed [Biden’s] campaign in the primary."