OPINION: Corporations take a back seat as Joe Biden readies his administration

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By PHIL MATTERA

PRESIDENT-ELECT Joe Biden is telegraphing a sharp turn from the policies of the Trump administration, putting workers and experts ahead of corporate cronies.

Among the many challenges Joe Biden’s administration will have to confront after Donald Trump ends his temper tantrum is deciding what posture 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.

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.

Surveying the list of affiliations, I found only about 20 for large corporations. Most of the people are from academia, state government, law firms, non-profits, unions, think tanks and foundations.

It is likely 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.

UNIONS IN LABOR DEPARTMENT
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.

ENVIRONMENTALISTS AT EPA
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.

TECH COMPANIES AT OMB
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, state officials 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.

(Phil Mattera is research director of Good Jobs First and director of the Corporate Research Project. He has been doing strategic corporate research for Labor, environmental, public-interest and other activist groups around the country for three decades. Before that he worked as a business journalist. He is a licensed private investigator; author of four books on business, Labor and economics; and a long-time member of the National Writers Union. His blog on corporate research and corporate misbehavior is the Dirt Diggers Digest. He has written more than 70 critical company profiles for the Corporate Rap Sheets section of the Corporate Research Project website. He leads the work on Violation Tracker and Covid Stimulus Watch. Reprinted from DC Report.)

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