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Biden Administration Must Go Further in Financial Disclosures to Reveal Possible Conflicts of Interest in Foreign Policy Making, Groups Say in Open Letter

WASHINGTON - Dozens of foreign policy, faith-based, environmental organizations, and watchdog groups are calling on President Biden to require more thorough screenings for, and disclosures of, possible conflicts of interest among nominees and appointees to the new administration. In a letter sent to the White House today, over 40 groups — including the American Friends Service Committee, Friends of the Earth, Government Accountability Project, Peace Action, Project on Government Oversight, Public Citizen, Win Without War, and the Revolving Door Project — say the Personal Financial Disclosures submitted by Biden’s nominees do not include vital information about private sector work and personal investments, posing questions about potential conflicts of interest.

“After four years of the corruption and self-dealing that defined the Trump administration, Biden owes the American people full transparency. 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,” Miranda Litwak of the Revolving Door Project at the Center for Economic and Policy Research said.

The letter highlights how the business ties of Trump administration officials, including Trump family members, appear to have influenced policy decisions. The groups argue that Jared Kushner’s business dealings in Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates were inseparable from the Trump Administration’s support of both of the countries through weapons sales, backing of the countries’ war against Yemen and isolation of Qatar, and hostilities against Iran.

The groups warned of possible conflicts of interest that already exist among appointees and nominees already named:

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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 groups note that the Senate Foreign Relations Committee has also requested additional information on the work nominees and appointees have done for their clients, and say, “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.”

The letter concludes with four requests of the Biden administration: to provide a detailed description of the work performed for corporate clients or foreign governments in a consulting capacity; to describe how the nominees/appointees came to consult with these corporate clients or foreign governments, and why they chose to take them on; to disclose any guidance they provided to clients related to federal procurement, and to list the federal contracts advised on; and to describe in detail any investments 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.

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The Revolving Door Project (RDP), a project of the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR), scrutinizes executive branch appointees to ensure they use their office to serve the broad public interest, rather than to entrench corporate power or seek personal advancement.

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