Some of Biden’s cabinet picks and transition team members “have done work for undisclosed corporate clients and aided a fund that invests in government contractors,” reported the NY Times.
Back in late September, Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden’s transition team was hailed by the mainstream media for releasing an ethics plan that, according to Politico, was “designed to make it harder for lobbyists to work on the transition effort.”
The website also reported at the time that “the rules are broadly similar [to] those put in place by President Barack Obama’s transition team 12 years ago.” For example:
They “bar those who’ve worked as registered lobbyists or foreign agents in the past year from working on the transition unless” Jessica Hertz, the transition team’s general counsel, signs off on the arrangement. “They also forbid transition staffers from working on any ‘specific Transition matter’ that they’ve lobbied on in the past year or plan to lobby on in the coming year without Hertz’s approval.”
An overview of the Biden transition team’s ethics plan document states that “the Plan aims to ensure that Transition team members abide by the highest ethical standards, act solely in furtherance of the public interest, and base all policy and personnel decisions on merit, free from individual conflicts of interest.”
Just two months later, Biden is proceeding with the transition process even as the Trump campaign’s legal challenges are still playing out in the courts. But as the New York Times reported Saturday, some of Biden’s picks “for top posts have done work for undisclosed corporate clients and aided a fund that invests in government contractors,” which is already prompting ethics concerns:
One firm helps companies navigate global risks and the political and procedural ins and outs of Washington. The other is an investment fund with a particular interest in military contractors.
But the consulting firm, WestExec Advisors, and the investment fund, Pine Island Capital Partners, call themselves strategic partners and have featured an overlapping roster of politically connected officials — including some of the most prominent names on President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s team and others under consideration for high-ranking posts.
WestExec’s founders include Antony J. Blinken, Mr. Biden’s choice to be his secretary of state, and Michèle A. Flournoy, one of the leading candidates to be his defense secretary. Among others to come out of WestExec are Avril Haines, Mr. Biden’s pick to be director of national intelligence; Christina Killingsworth, who is helping the president-elect organize his White House budget office; Ely Ratner, who is helping organize the Biden transition at the Pentagon; and Jennifer Psaki, an adviser on Mr. Biden’s transition team.
Another person listed as a member of the Pine Island team is Lloyd J. Austin III, a retired Army general who is also under consideration for defense secretary, according to a person familiar with the selection process.
JUST POSTED: NYT takes deep look at WestExec, secretive consulting firm run by several key Biden advisors. WestExec has become effectively a White House in waiting. Clients include an Artificial Intelligence firm selling drones to Pentagon. With @kenvogel https://t.co/dtRa3pIjtq
— Eric Lipton (@EricLiptonNYT) November 28, 2020
NEW: Until earlier this year, TONY BLINKEN was a member of a private equity fund that invests in defense contractors.
Two prospective BIDEN defense secretary picks, MICHÈLE FLOURNOY & LLOYD J. AUSTIN III, are still members of the fund, PINE ISLAND CAPITAL https://t.co/owLgyCr6cS
— Kenneth P. Vogel (@kenvogel) November 28, 2020
Some of Biden's choices for top posts have done work for undisclosed corporate clients and aided a fund that invests in government contractors, presenting the incoming administration with its first test of transparency and ethics. https://t.co/33PqkKmwBt
— The New York Times (@nytimes) November 28, 2020
The American Prospect, which describes itself as “an independent voice for liberal thought,” was the first to report back in July on the revolving door nature of WestExec Advisors and how some of its founding partners including Blinken and Flournoy could be in line to shape foreign policy in a potential Biden administration.
Pine Island has not exactly been shy about touting what they describe as their “unusual access to information,” a Daily Poster review of government documents revealed:
On November 16, two weeks after Election Day, Pine Island announced an initial public offering of $200 million in its new investment vehicle, called Pine Island Acquisition Corp. In that filing, the company suggests that because of its ties to former government officials, it will have an advantage in investing — and it specifically boasts that its team includes Flournoy.
“Pine Island Capital Partners spends the majority of its time focused in the aerospace, defense and government services sectors, where Pine Island Capital Partners believes it has extensive connections to industry leaders, unusual access to information, and often unique insights into specific companies, programs and overall market dynamics,” the company declares. “The reputations and networks of Pine Island Capital Partners’ team, both individually and collectively, will ensure exposure to a significant number of proprietary opportunities.”
Though Biden is getting hit with ethics questions from the left, right, and even some in the pro-Biden media on his picks, transition spokesperson Andrew Bates assured the Times that “Joe Biden has pledged the most ethically rigorous administration in American history, and every cabinet member will abide by strict ethics rules and abide by all disclosure requirements.”
Considering the fact that the team Biden is building is filled with Obama-Biden administration retreads, it’s safe to predict that his pledge to run “the most ethically rigorous administration in American history” will be about as reliable and honest as Barack Obama’s promise to voters to run the most transparent presidential administration in American history – and we all remember how that turned out.
— Stacey Matthews has also written under the pseudonym “Sister Toldjah” and can be reached via Twitter. —DONATE
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