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President Joe Biden prepares to sign a series of executive orders at the Resolute Desk in the Oval Office just hours after his inauguration on January 20, 2021 in Washington, D.C.

President Joe Biden prepares to sign a series of executive orders at the Resolute Desk in the Oval Office just hours after his inauguration on January 20, 2021 in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

To Restore Trust After Years of Trump 'Corruption and Self-Dealing,' Biden Team Urged to Release Full Financial Disclosures

"Directing his nominees and appointees to disclose detailed records of consulting work for businesses and foreign governments is the first step in helping restore faith in government."

Jake Johnson

A diverse coalition of nearly 50 progressive advocacy groups on Thursday urged newly inaugurated President Joe Biden to direct members of his administration to release more detailed financial disclosures to protect against potential conflicts of interest and help restore public trust in government following years of brazen corruption and secrecy from the Trump White House.

"The public has a right to receive full transparency from their public servants. This means not just providing the bare minimum on public financial disclosures, but fully detailing private sector work," reads a letter signed by 49 organizations, including the Revolving Door Project, Public Citizen, CodePink, and the U.S. Campaign for Palestinian Rights.

"After four years of the corruption and self-dealing that defined the Trump administration, Biden owes the American people full transparency."
—Miranda Litwak, Revolving Door Project

The groups argued that the financial disclosures Biden's nominees and appointees have begun to release in recent days are not sufficient to reveal the "full scope of the potential conflicts" posed by the past corporate work of incoming government officials.

"From Blackstone and Gilead, to Palantir and Facebook, to Raytheon Technologies and Ridgeline Partners, the corporate clients referenced in the disclosures released so far include a number of firms with significant stakes in federal and international policymaking," the new letter reads. "The Trump era made clear the dangers of unchecked conflicts of interest among American foreign policy officials."

In order to "assure the American public that your administration will put national security concerns over corporate profits or foreign interests," the coalition urged Biden to take four specific steps:

  1. Provide a detailed description of the work performed for corporate clients or foreign governments in a consulting capacity, including on which policy areas and federal agencies they advised, how long they maintained a professional relationship with each client, what specific advice they offered on these policy areas and federal agencies, and whether those recommendations were ultimately implemented.
  1. Describe how specifically they came to be consulting with these corporate clients or foreign governments, and why they chose to take them on.
  1. Disclose any guidance they provided to clients related to federal procurement and list the federal contracts advised on.
  1. Describe in detail any investments that are not readily intelligible based on the name of the entity, particularly overseas investments, including the value of those investments and the identities of all beneficial owners. 

"After four years of the corruption and self-dealing that defined the Trump administration, Biden owes the American people full transparency," Miranda Litwak, research assistant at the Revolving Door Project, said in a statement Thursday. "Directing his nominees and appointees to disclose detailed records of consulting work for businesses and foreign governments is the first step in helping restore faith in government."

Read the full letter:

Dear President Biden:

In the past few weeks, your nominees and appointees have begun to release their Personal Financial Disclosures outlining their previous private sector work. From Blackstone and Gilead, to Palantir and Facebook, to Raytheon Technologies and Ridgeline Partners, the corporate clients referenced in the disclosures released so far include a number of firms with significant stakes in federal and international policymaking. For example, Palantir provides technology to the Department of Defense, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and local police departments. The firm's technological offerings have facilitated ICE’s mass deportations. Palantir was also closely tied to Cambridge Analytica, the firm that illegally captured Facebook data to help influence the 2016 presidential election. It is vital we understand the extent of the private sector work performed by Biden's nominees and appointees on behalf of corporations and foreign governments.

Unfortunately, these financial disclosures provide insufficient details on the nature of work your nominees and appointees have performed for their clients, making it nearly impossible to determine the full scope of the potential conflicts.

The Trump era made clear the dangers of unchecked conflicts of interest among American foreign policy officials. The Trump administration made weapons sales to countries such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates a priority, while simultaneously continuing to support the Saudi and U.A.E. war in Yemen; tearing up the Iran nuclear agreement; and even assassinating Iranian general Qasem Soleimani, risking a US war with Iran. These actions were inseparable from the business ties that the Trump family has with Saudi Arabia and the U.A.E., as they were from the administration’s failures to hold Saudi Prince Mohammed bin Salman responsible for the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

You have committed to rooting out the corruption of the previous Trump administration and have proposed sweeping government ethics proposals, which we commend. But in order to stick to these promises and to assure the American public that your administration will put national security concerns over corporate profits or foreign interests, we urge you to, at the very least, direct your nominees and appointees to clearly describe the specific nature of their past work for the private sector actors, especially those under investigation by or in ongoing contracts with the federal government. Earlier this week, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, recognizing the significance of these conflicts, requested additional information on nominees’ private sector work. The undersigned groups urge you to complete this request swiftly and ensure all of your appointees disclose the full scope and nature of their private sector work.

Specifically, we urge you to direct your nominees and appointees to: 

  1. Provide a detailed description of the work performed for corporate clients or foreign governments in a consulting capacity, including on which policy areas and federal agencies they advised, how long they maintained a professional relationship with each client, what specific advice they offered on these policy areas and federal agencies, and whether those recommendations were ultimately implemented.
  1. Describe how specifically they came to be consulting with these corporate clients or foreign governments, and why they chose to take them on.
  1. Disclose any guidance they provided to clients related to federal procurement and list the federal contracts advised on.
  1. Describe in detail any investments that are not readily intelligible based on the name of the entity, particularly overseas investments, including the value of those investments and the identities of all beneficial owners.  

The public has a right to receive full transparency from their public servants. This means not just providing the bare minimum on public financial disclosures, but fully detailing private sector work.

Signed,

350 Butte County

350 Silicon Valley

American Friends Service Committee

Arms Control Association

Call to Action Colorado

CatholicNetwork.US

Center for Constitutional Rights

Center for Economic & Policy Research

Center for International Policy

Chicago Religious Leadership Network on Latin America

CODEPINK

Colorado Businesses for a Livable Climate

Common Defense

Courage California

Defending Rights & Dissent

Demand Progress Education Fund

Earth Action, Inc.

Fix Democracy First

Friends of the Earth

Government Accountability Project

Grassroots Global Justice Alliance

Jetpac Resource Center, Inc.

Just Foreign Policy

MADRE 

Massachusetts Peace Action

Mijente

National Priorities Project, Institute for Policy Studies

Partnership for Working Families

Peace Action

Peace Action New York State

People's Action

People's Parity Project

Project Blueprint

Project on Government Oversight

Public Citizen

RepresentUs New Mexico

Rethinking Foreign Policy

Revolving Door Project

South Asian Americans Leading Together 

South Bay Progressive Alliance

The Freedom BLOC

Tunisian United Network

UnKoch My Campus

United for Respect

US Campaign for Palestinian Rights 

Veterans for Peace, Chapter 113-Hawai’i

Win Without War

X-Lab

Yemeni Alliance Committee


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