Welcome to our supplemental newsletter, the Revolving Door Spotlight. Here, we review the open jobs in the Biden administration we have our eyes on, as well as the would-be revolvers vying for those jobs. To learn more about which agencies and positions specific industries are seeking to influence, as well as the industry-tied individuals who might seek to lead them, check out our Industry Agenda reports here and our Personnel Map here.
Top Open Jobs
OIRA Administrator: OIRA is perhaps the most powerful agency that almost no one outside of the Beltway has heard of. It wields direct oversight and veto power over most of the American regulatory state — it can issue orders to most regulators housed within Cabinet departments and has considerable influence over independent agencies too. It claims to conduct “cost-benefit analysis” to decide if a given regulation is worth the cost, but this necessarily requires so many subjective calls that it’s essentially up to the whims of the agency whether they view a given regulation as too costly. If OIRA does decide a proposed rule would be too burdensome, it’s usually back to the drawing board for that regulation, no matter how much time or energy is wasted and how drastic the consequences may be. OIRA has too often been a corporate lobbyist’s ace in the hole for fending off tough regulation of their sector, even (especially!) under Democratic presidents. We are encouraged to see that Sharon Block, a union ally and critic of deregulation, was appointed to lead the office in an acting capacity.
Comptroller of the Currency: The head of the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) has immense power over the financial industry as one of its top regulators. The office distributes and manages charters for banks that operate across state lines and sets rules about how much risk banks can take on. Since the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act, the Comptroller’s office has had greatly expanded powers to investigate banks’ actual balance sheets. Technically, this individual will have the power to decide which activities are considered “banking” and thus subject to the OCC’s regulation. The OCC also has the ability to set and enforce regulations that require banks to consider climate impact in risk assessments. The nascent “fintech” industry, which produces apps for financial activities like lending or investing, is particularly interested in undermining the Comptroller’s regulatory powers, including its enforcement of Know Your Customer anti-money laundering requirements. Many fintech firms would like to see current KYC requirements replaced with digital surveillance technology, allowing these firms to track users’ fingerprints, voices, and other biometrics. OCC regulations can, in some cases, preempt state-level laws like the California Consumer Privacy Act, potentially overriding more stringent privacy protections.
Federal Reserve Board Governor: One seat remains open on the Federal Reserve’s Board of Governors. An additional three seats will become available before 2023. These members serve fourteen year terms, and their votes shape monetary policy for the entire dollar-based financial system. Their decisions can promote a financial system that is safe, inclusive, and stable, or promote big banks’ risky speculation. Given the length of their terms and the macroeconomic stakes, it is important to have an independent Board, not one tied to the financial interests of Wall Street.
IRS Commissioner: Naturally, the IRS Commissioner oversees tax collection policies and priorities. Even Larry Summers has noted that if we just collected the taxes already on the books and redirected auditing resources from harassing the desperate to cracking down on the opulent, we’d both generate enormous government revenue and (more importantly) have a far more equitable society. The IRS is also crucial to the distribution of stimulus checks to Americans in desperate need of support. Current IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig’s term is due to end in November 2022, but there is actually nothing preventing the President from firing the IRS Commissioner at any time — the IRS is not an independent agency. Given how Rettig has aided and abetted the Trump-era graft which Biden ran against, Biden should fire Rettig.
Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Treasury, Financial Stability: The Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Financial Stability oversees the Financial Stability Oversight Council (FSOC), a council of all the major financial regulators in the federal government. FSOC was created by Dodd-Frank to identify emerging systemic risks to the financial system and provide regulatory fixes, especially those targeted at “systemically important financial institutions” (SIFIs), better known as “Too Big To Fail” firms. FSOC votes on whether to designate a firm as a SIFI — at the moment, the designated SIFIs are all banks, despite non-bank firms like BlackRock having balance sheets much larger and levels of interconnection much greater. Climate activists and economists have argued that FSOC should designate climate change a systemic risk to the financial system, allowing the Federal Reserve to impose regulations on financial institutions’ investments in fossil fuels and other climate change-exacerbating industries. While not actually a member of FSOC, the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Financial Stability helps set the agenda and workstream of FSOC and will have the power to influence whether or not FSOC acts aggressively to tackle climate change.
Assistant Treasury Secretary for Investment Security: This appointee runs the cross-agency team that investigates any national security concerns about foreign actors investing in or owning American companies (that team is called the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States.) They have extremely broad leeway to look into the financials and internal documents of any corporation with significant foreign ownership. Most especially, if a foreign company is purchasing a domestic one, this committee can force divestment. Since 2018, they’ve also had specific powers over private equity investing.
Undersecretary of the Treasury for International Affairs: The Undersecretary of the Treasury for International Affairs advises the Treasury Secretary on international economic policy issues and oversees the Department’s portfolio on international finance and international markets and development. This position is responsible for the development and implementation of the policies in the areas of international monetary policy, national security, trade, investment energy and infrastructure. The undersecretary also coordinates with G-7 and G-20 nations on financial markets policy and helps manage the United States’ bilateral, regional and multilateral economic relationships.
United States Attorneys: Across the country, the 93 US Attorneys are the local face of the federal government’s criminal legal system. Within their respective regional jurisdictions, each is responsible for criminal enforcement on issues ranging from civil rights and police misconduct to white-collar crime and drug charges, with significant discretion over what to prioritize with their limited resources. In addition to deciding who to pursue, these officials control how harshly defendants will be punished via charging criminal offenses. US Attorneys serve four-year terms. As such there are already numerous vacancies across the DOJ. Rather than drawing on the same tough-on-crime prosecutors and corporate law attorneys who have overwhelmingly controlled U.S. Attorneys’ offices for decades, Biden could appoint reform-minded state and local prosecutors or public defenders.
Assistant Attorney General, Antitrust Division: A position that will have enormous power reining in monopolistic industries, including Big Tech, the head of the Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division should be willing to scrutinize our highly-consolidated economy and aggressively sue to enforce antitrust laws. After years of platforms like Facebook and YouTube swallowing all online advertising revenue while allowing violent and hateful rhetoric to flow freely and exacerbate far-right radicalization, and billions of dollars spent by Big Tech lobbyists to block government regulation, Biden’s head antitrust lawyer will play a key role in protecting and restoring democracy and economic liberties. That’s to say nothing of the many other hyper-consolidated industries in the American economy, including Big Ag, telecomms, and Wall Street. Unfortunately, Big Tech has already been pushing Biden to appoint their top lawyers and allies to run the agency currently investigating them for violating anti-monopoly laws. Biden must resist this pressure and select an individual who will serve the public interest, not Big Tech.
Assistant Attorney General, Civil Division: The DOJ’s Civil Division represents the federal government in all litigation. While Congress and federal agencies have the power to produce and implement regulations and laws that protect Americans, without the DOJ’s Civil Division, these laws and regulations cannot be enforced or protected. Biden’s Assistant Attorney General leading the Civil Division will not just decide whether to bring affirmative cases against defrauders of the federal government and violators of consumer protection, employment, healthcare, and Social Security laws; they will also be charged with defending lawsuits against the federal government challenging these regulations and laws. It will be vital to have a high-energy, public interest-minded leader of the Civil Division, willing to protect and enforce Biden’s policy agenda, rather than aid corporate America’s efforts to hollow out democratic governance in exchange for revolving out to a BigLaw job themselves in a few years.
Assistant Attorney General, Criminal Division: The DOJ’s Criminal Division enforces federal criminal law. It prosecutes those accused of fraud, organized crime, corruption in government, money laundering, and human rights violations to name just a few potential charges. Biden’s pick will face unique challenges: they will be charged with both investigating the corruption and abuses of the Trump administration and the right-wing insurrection it incited in January. Moreover, they will have to prosecute those in violation of the law, including and especially white-collar crime, prosecution of which has fallen nearly 50% in the past 20 years. But beyond prosecution, the Assistant Attorney General leading the Criminal Division also implements criminal enforcement policy — including sentencing and capital punishment guidelines — and advises federal prosecutors on criminal matters. This will involve unwinding the Trump Administration’s punitive policies, which have further exacerbated racial disparities in the criminal justice system, as well as addressing racist and violent law enforcement tactics across the country.
Chief Operating Officer of the Office of Federal Student Aid (FSA): An incredibly important, yet often overlooked position, the head of the Education Department’s Office of Federal Student Aid (FSA), oversees the nation’s $1.5 trillion student loan portfolio and has the broad ability to forgive student debt. During her tenure, Betsy DeVos sabotaged student loan relief programs while shielding predatory for-profit colleges from responsibility. Already, Biden has appointed or failed to fire individuals with deep ties to for profit colleges working in his FSA office. He must work to rectify this by appointing a strong advocate for students to this post.
Food & Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner: The Commissioner of the FDA oversees regulation of food, drugs, medical devices, and several other products sold in the U.S. This individual will have a key role in multiple health crises, including the COVID pandemic (by approving vaccines) and the opioid crisis (by regulating the sale of opioid.) Biden has yet to appoint an FDA administrator, despite calls by six former FDA commissioners to quickly nominate someone to the post. Currently, the FDA is led by acting commissioner Janet Woodcock, a career FDA civil servant who has faced criticism by some anti-opioid advocates who claim she oversaw the approval of too many opioids during her tenure.
Occupational Safety and Hazard (OSHA) Administrator: An office within the Department of Labor, OSHA is mandated to ensure working people have access to safe and healthy working conditions and enforcing these standards where companies fail to meet them. OSHA’s administrator therefore has broad powers to write and enforce regulations to protect workers and hold exploitative and abusive companies responsible. As more and more reports of unsafe working conditions surface, particularly throughout the pandemic, it is urgent that Biden appoint a strong worker advocate to lead OSHA.
National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Member: The NLRB oversees labor relations and unionization. It is governed by a partisan, five-member board that votes on the rules governing union drives and investigates unfair labor practices. It is currently dominated by three Republicans and one Democrat, with one seat vacant. Biden will need to aggressively nominate new NLRB members as Republican holdovers’ terms expire if he wants to deliver an NLRB whose rulings support working people rather than their bosses.
Manuel “Manny” Alvarez: Alvarez served as general counsel and chief compliance officer at the high-interest microlender Affirm. Affirm’s interest rates can go as high as 30% APR, and some of the company’s customers don’t even know they have taken out a loan until the transaction is complete. After leaving Affirm, Alvarez became commissioner of the California Department of Financial Protection and Innovation, an office dedicated to giving fintech companies a direct line into the creation of its own regulations. Alvarez has been floated for Comptroller of the Currency, a position that would be tasked with regulating fintech companies like Affirm.
Charles Yi: Yi revolved out of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation in 2019 to a lucrative role at Arnold & Porter, where he advises corporate firms that have often lobbied on the very issues he worked in while in government. On his law firm’s website, Yi advertises his insider knowledge of financial regulation and government stimulus programs to his corporate clients. During the pandemic, his practice group has helped corporations access taxpayer-funded federal stimulus programs. Yi is on Biden’s Treasury Agency Review Team and may be in the running for a high level position at Treasury or SEC.
Abigail Seldin: Seldin is a former executive of Education Credit Management Corporation (ECMC), a student debt collector that has a long history of opposing student loan discharges and even mounting legal action against students seeking relief. ECMC is under active investigation by the CFPB. Before joining ECMC, Seldin co-founded College Abacus, a college cost calculation tool that sells information available on college websites for free. Seldin was also a partner at NextGen Venture Partners, a venture capital fund that invested in the startup Vemo Education, which promoted the use of income share agreements for higher education financing. Consumer groups and legislators have criticized income share agreements over deceptive market practices. Seldin is allegedly trying to get hired to lead Biden’s Office of Federal Student Assistance.
Einer Elhauge: Elhauge is a former Republican who served as counsel for the Republican-dominated Florida House of Representatives in 2000, during which he argued that valid votes should not be counted and that state legislatures had “plenary authority” to decide elections. This helped undermine the results of the election. This same argument was adopted by Trump in 2020 in his attempt to overturn the results of the 2020 election, an attempt that led to the bloody riot on January 6th, 2021. Elhauge then went on to consult for Google and even received payment from the tech giant to write an article defending the Google Books antitrust settlement. In the article, Elhauge adopted conservative lawyer Robert Bork’s “consumer welfare standard” to argue that the settlement should only be judged based on its impact on consumers, even if Google Books was clearly monopolistic. In 2011, a federal judge dismissed the settlement, holding that it gave Google too much control over the market. Elhauge is in consideration for a top antitrust related policy job in the Biden Administration.
Elizabeth Rosenberg: A former Obama Treasury official, Rosenberg is currently under consideration to lead Biden Treasury’s Terrorism and Financial Intelligence unit. During her last tenure in government, Rosenberg helped develop and implement financial and energy sanctions against several nations, including Iran. Researchers at Human Rights Watch and Stanford have found that Obama-era sanctions on Iran devastated the Iranian people, causing mass unemployment, skyrocketing food prices, and medicine shortages. After the Obama administration, Rosenberg joined the Center for a New American Security (CNAS), a think tank that is heavily funded by defense, tech, and fossil fuel companies.
Sonal Shah: Sonal Shah is an Obama White House alum who worked for Google and Goldman Sachs. She is perhaps most known for serving as Pete Buttigieg’s Policy Director, where her personal fundraising efforts with high-dollar donors drew criticism as Buttigieg’s policies increasingly seemed to favor those same donors and fundraisers.. Despite these facts, she has been publicly floated to lead the Office of Management & Budget after Neera Tanden’s nomination was withdrawn.
Jamie Gorelick: After serving in the Clinton Department of Justice, Jamie Gorelick joined BigLaw firm WilmerHale where she advertised her government connections and insider knowledge of government investigations and litigation to corporations. As a partner at WilmerHale, Gorelick represented BP Oil when the company faced government investigations and prosecution for the Gulf oil spill, helping them gain concessions from the federal government. She represented the cities of Chicago and Baltimore, earning over $1,000 per hour, in DOJ probes following the police murders of Laquan McDonald and Freddie Gray. In addition, Gorelick represented Cardinal, one of the top drug distribution companies during the height of the opioid crisis; lobbied against Obama Administration efforts to regulate abusive student loan companies; and represented Google’s CEO in Congressional oversight hearings. If that wasn’t bad enough, she also served as Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump’s ethics lawyer while they were in the Trump Administration. Gorelick helped defend them against anti-nepotism laws. In addition to her work at WilmerHale, Gorelick also sits on the board of directors of domain name monopolist Verisign and e-commerce monopolist Amazon. In recent days, both Gorelick and WilmerHale have been touting her close relationship to Biden’s attorney general nominee Merrick Garland. Even if she doesn’t return to Main Justice personally, Gorelick’s potential influence with Garland must be better understood by the public.
Amy Friend: From 2013 to 2017, Amy Friend was the chief counsel of the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, the federal government’s primary bank regulator with purview over issues related to fintech. While at the OCC she developed what would become Special Purpose National Bank Charters, which give fintech companies unprecedented exemptions from state and federal banking laws. After leaving the Obama Administration, she joined Varo Bank’s board of directors in order to help it win the first fintech bank charter given by the OCC. Additionally, Amy Friend works for a fintech lobbying firm, FS Vector, that lobbied for clients like Facebook. She specifically works in their regulatory arm, aiding fintech companies to skirt OCC regulations. Additionally, she sits on the board of a nonprofit funded by a fintech-focused venture capital firm to produce arguments for deregulating the financial system. Nonetheless, Friend is currently in contention for a high-level regulatory post at the OCC.
Michael Barr: Michael Barr was Barack Obama’s Assistant Secretary for Financial Institutions from 2009 – 2010, where he helped insulate the biggest banks from accountability for the 2008 financial crisis as a loyal foot soldier of then-Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner. Barr exalted Geithner as a hero upon Geithner’s exit from the Obama administration (Geithner took a job at private equity firm Warburg Pincus shortly after leaving Treasury.) Barr specifically helped design the much-maligned HAMP program, which was intended to aid homeowners threatened by bankruptcy, but ended up part of a policy of transferring risk and debt from the banks to the government and public, largely thanks to Geithner. Since the Obama years, Barr has advised and served on the boards of many fintech companies (some with troubling company histories) and advises industry-funded think tanks on their advocacy for deregulating and digitizing the financial system. He currently advises a venture capital fund, NYCA, which invests exclusively in fintech and is composed of former Wall Street and Silicon Valley executives. He has been floated as a top choice to lead the OCC, a top financial regulator, to the disappointment of progressive groups and lawmakers.
Susan Davies: After leaving the Obama Administration’s White House Counsel office, where her judicial nominations team appointed corporate lawyers to 71 percent of open judgeships, Susan Davies joined the conservative law firm Kirkland & Ellis — the former employer of Brett Kavanaugh; Robert Bork; Ken Starr; and Trump Attorney General William Barr. Kirkland & Ellis has been known as a holding pen for conservative lawyers between Republican Administrations. Trump’s Department of Justice was so full of Kirkland lawyers that one of the top Trump DOJ officials joked “our philosophy is that an agency can never be led by too many lawyers from Kirkland & Ellis.” The firm is also known for taking on notorious clients like Jeffrey Epstein and defending BP after the devastating Deepwater Horizon spill. Davies herself has defended Facebook and several other corporate clients who faced antitrust investigations.
Renata Hesse: Renata Hesse is a Sullivan & Cromwell antitrust lawyer who has practiced antitrust law on behalf of Amazon (in its acquisition of Whole Foods), Google (to quash an anti-monopoly investigation in Texas, alongside then-lawyer Ted Cruz), and American Express (in its acquisition of fintech company Kabbage). She served in Obama’s DOJ Antitrust Division as the Acting Assistant Attorney General for Antitrust where she approved several large mergers, including between Time-Warner Cable and Comcast, US Airways and American Airlines, Arcadian and Humana, and AT&T and T-Mobile. Prior to joining the Obama Administration, Hesse worked at Google’s go-to law firm Wilson Sonsini.
Mark Gitenstein: Gitenstein is a longtime ally of Biden, serving as the President-Elect’s chief counsel when he was in the Senate. Gitenstein then revolved out of public office to lobby on behalf of corporate clients, often fighting against the passage of Democratic and populist legislation. As a lobbyist, Gitenstein helped accounting firm Arthur Andersen, which was committing fraud in its auditing of Enron, avoid oversight. Gitenstein also lobbied on behalf of military contractors, including Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and General Dynamics, to make it harder for civil servants to expose government fraud. Biden himself called the bill for which Gitenstein was lobbying “absolutely outrageous.” In his role lobbying for asbestos companies, Gitenstein pushed for the passage of a Bush-era law making it harder for asbestos victims to sue corporations. Gitenstein’s history as a corporate lobbyist was so infamous that Public Citizen successfully convinced Obama not to appoint him to lead the Office of Legal Counsel in 2009. Instead, Obama gave Gitenstein the ambassadorship to Romania, where he continued his track record of self-dealing. As ambassador, Gitenstein focused on expanding US corporate involvement in Romania and privatizing Romanian industry, while looking the other way toward Romanian President Traian Băsescu’s authoritarian political tactics. A totalitarianism expert castigated Gitenstein’s tenure in Romania, noting that Băsescu later gave him a seat on a government-led fund that held shares of Romania’s most profitable companies. Gitenstein continues to cash in on his Romanian connections today at BigLaw firm Mayer Brown, where he consults corporations looking to expand or solidify their Romanian presence.
Sarah Bianchi: Bianchi is a long-time Democratic operative and corporate revolver. She has used her government experience to land a number of high-profile jobs in the corporate sector. First, as a hedge fund investor, she worked in an industry that benefited greatly from President Clinton’s deregulatory agenda. Then Bianchi took a top job at BlackRock, the world’s largest investor in fossil fuel companies. After just two years there, Bianchi was tapped to run Airbnb’s lobbying shop. Under her leadership, Airbnb quadrupled its lobbying staff and doubled its lobbying spending. Her office worked to weaken worker protection laws. Now, Bianchi works at Evercore and has used her position to speak about politics from Wall Street’s perspective.
Heidi Crebo-Rediker: From 1990 to 2006, Crebo-Rediker worked for Wall Street banks like Lehman Brothers and Bear Stearns, which helped cause the greatest financial crisis since the Great Depression. Before joining Bear Stearns as Head of European Debt Capital Markets in 2005, Crebo-Rediker was the Head of Emerging Markets and Debt Capital Markets at Lehman Brothers. Crebo-Rediker left Wall Street just in time to avoid the fallout, starting a new initiative at the New America Foundation where she argued that the federal government should cede power to financial institutions and partner with the private sector to invest in infrastructure projects. In 2012, Crebo-Rediker joined the State Department where she helped implement Secretary Clinton’s “economic statecraft” agenda, pushing for pro-corporate trade agreements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership. After leaving the White House, Crebo-Rediker monetized her government connections, opening up her own consultancy where she advises financial firms on trade and financial policy. She also serves on the board of asset advisory firm Campbell Lutyens, where she advises on the firm’s private equity transactions.
Leslie Caldwell: Former assistant attorney general Leslie Caldwell has close ties to Biden’s inner circle. She served in the Obama Department of Justice, and Biden picked her to serve on his transition advisory board. Caldwell has swung through the revolving door between BigLaw and the Department of Justice twice. First, after serving on the Department of Justice’s Enron Task Force, Caldwell took a high-profile private-sector job at corporate law firm Morgan Lewis & Bockius, where her clients included major banks and defense contractors. In 2014, Obama tapped Caldwell to lead the Criminal Division of his Department of Justice, where she was largely lenient toward white-collar crime. At the end of Obama’s term, Caldwell returned to the private sector, this time at Latham & Watkins, where she represented corporate clients facing white-collar criminal investigations and prosecutions.
Howard Shelanski: Howard Shelanski is a partner at BigLaw firm Davis Polk. Shelanski was the Administrator of OIRA and the Director of the Bureau of Economics at the FTC between stints at Davis Polk, where he advises corporate clients on antitrust and competition issues. He is currently advising Facebook in the ongoing FTC antitrust suit and also advised the Biden campaign on antitrust issues.
*Have a position or individual you would like to add to our list? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
PHOTO: “White House” by Diego Cambiaso is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0