Today, the Revolving Door Project issued Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests for records reflecting any ethics advice given to any Senate-confirmed Department of Justice (DOJ) officials. The Project also requested any ethics advice given to Chief of Staff to the Deputy Attorney General Anita Singh, whose husband is a member of Google’s antitrust defense team at law firm Vinson & Elkins. The Project is interested in which potential conflicts of interest do or don’t trigger ethics concerns within the Department, particularly as Big Tech companies engage in a cynical and specious campaign to use ethics rules to tie the hands of antitrust enforcers.
Most recently, Google has demanded Assistant Attorney General for the Antitrust Division Jonathan Kanter’s recusal from the division’s ongoing case against the tech behemoth. As the Project’s Eleanor Eagan and Jeff Hauser have argued, giving into that legally baseless demand would not only threaten Biden’s competition agenda, but also set a precedent that undermines public interest-minded appointees moving forward. Moreover, with so many corporate BigLaw revolvers seemingly operating freely at the DOJ’s highest levels, it risks reinforcing the perception that ethics rules are applied selectively to disfavor the public interest and benefit those associated with the world’s most powerful corporations.
At present, the public lacks the information it needs to assess how consistently ethics standards are being applied. To help shed light on this question, Revolving Door Project previously requested documentation of any ethics advice given to certain officials. This request and others, some of which are over five months old, have gone unanswered.
The Department, meanwhile, has failed to proactively disclose additional ethics documentation despite lingering concerns about its ethical integrity following the Trump administration and pointed calls for greater transparency. Indeed, this DOJ has actually further undermined public trust by, for example, hiding the identities of senior officials like Susan Davies. Without greater transparency surrounding the DOJ’s ethics and recusal standards for all senior officials, doubts about the integrity of the department’s ethics program will remain. We urge the DOJ to take this threat to public trust seriously and to quickly release these requested records.
In addition to requesting documentation of any ethics advice provided to any Senate-confirmed DOJ officials, the Revolving Door Project also requested that its outstanding requests for records concerning Lisa Monaco, Elizabeth Prelogar and Susan Davies’ recusal agreements be granted expedited processing in light of recent media interest in the DOJ’s recusal standards. The Justice Department should quickly supply these records to allay legitimate concerns that its ethics standards are being inconsistently and unfairly administered.
Correction: The original version of this release incorrectly stated that Anita Singh is Chief of Staff to the Associate Attorney General. She is, in reality, Chief of Staff to the Deputy Attorney General. We regret the error.
“Washington DC – Federal Triangle: Robert F. Kennedy Department of Justice Building” by wallyg is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0