Among the many challenges the Biden Administration will have to confront after Trump ends his temper tantrum is deciding on the posture it wants to take toward big business. There will be a battle for the soul of the new president as corporate Democrats vie with progressives to influence policy in areas such as regulation and antitrust.
The initial signs are encouraging. The Biden transition just released a list of some 500 individuals who will be staffing the Agency Review Teams charged with preparing the way for a transfer of power in all parts of the executive branch.
I went through the list of affiliations and found only about 20 for large corporations. The vast majority of the people are from academia, state government, law firms, non-profits, unions, think tanks and foundations. It is likely that some of the law firms are there to represent specific corporate interests, but the numerous representatives from progressive public interest, environmental and labor groups should serve as an effective counterweight.
In the Labor Department list there are no law firms or corporations; in their place are representatives from five different unions along with people from the National Employment Law Project and other progressive groups.
What is particularly significant is the near absence of people affiliated with Wall Street banks. The Defense Department list has someone from JPMorgan Chase; Homeland Security has a representative from Capital One; and the International Development group includes someone from U.S. Bank. There is no one from Bank of America, Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, Wells Fargo or Morgan Stanley.
The Treasury Department group is led by someone from Keybank, which is based in Cleveland and ranks about 29th among U.S. banks. Fortunately, the Treasury group also includes representatives from places such as the Center for American Progress, the American Economic Liberties Project and the AFL-CIO.
Other balancing acts include the list for the Environmental Protection Agency, which includes a representative from Dell Technologies but also from Earthjustice (the lead person) and The Sierra Club.
Some of the corporations show up in surprising places. Walt Disney is represented on the Intelligence Community list. The cosmetics firm Estee Lauder has someone on the State Department list. Someone from Airbnb is in the National Security Council group.
Looking at current corporate villains, the one that stands out is Amazon.com. It shows up on two lists—the one for the State Department and the one for the Office of Management and Budget.
Lyft and Airbnb are also on the OMB list, along with some academics, a consultant, a state official and someone from Meow Wolf, a Santa Fe-based non-profit that produces immersive art experiences.
Given that OMB oversees regulatory policy, the absence of public interest, union and environmental people raises a concern. Otherwise, it appears that the Biden team is limiting corporate influence in the emerging administration. Let’s hope it stays that way.