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Democratic Platform Committee Members’ Conflicts of Interest

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Tom Vilsack (right) and Joe Biden (left) at An America Built to Last event at Iowa State University on March 1, 2012, in Ames, IA, where they spoke about the role of manufacturing in America.

BRANKO MARCETIC, branko.95.m at gmail.com, @BMarchetich
Marcetic is author of the recently released book Yesterday’s Man: the Case Against Joe Biden. He just wrote the piece “The People Who Will Draft the Democratic Platform Have a Conflict of Interest Problem” for In These Times.

Marcetic writes: “Several of the [platform drafting] committee’s members, announced last month by DNC Chair Tom Perez, have corporate ties. Delaware State University President Tony Allen, for instance, worked for years as a speechwriter and special assistant to presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden, before moving into the world of banking.

“Allen first joined MBNA, the credit card company that infamously served as Biden’s all-time top donor and pushed for his 2005 bankruptcy bill, assailed by bankruptcy judges around the country for the onerous restrictions it placed on households trying to expunge their debts, including one who called it ‘the most poorly written piece of legislation that I or anyone else has ever seen.’ Allen worked at MBNA from 2004 through 2006, just as the bankruptcy bill was being ushered to passage. At the same time, the company was paying Biden’s son, Hunter, a $100,000-a-year retainer, criticized as an attempt to curry favor with Biden as he shepherded the bill through Congress.

“After Bank of America acquired MBNA in 2006, Allen left the latter for the former, where he stayed for the next eleven years. He spent much of that time working on ‘corporate reputation,’ which, according to his university bio, involved ‘reputation analysis’ and ‘developing programming to influential media elites, national social justice advocates, academics and elected officials.’ Such tasks were no doubt a tough-job at the scandal-plagued bank, which in that period paid out multiple settlements over racist predatory lending, signing up 1.4 million customers to expensive credit card programs they never authorized, and pushing homeowners into foreclosure.”

Another one of the several members of the committee that Marcetic examines is Tom Vilsack. “Days after stepping down as agriculture secretary, Vilsack spun through the revolving door to the U.S. Dairy Export Council, where he now earns nearly $1 million as the top executive at its parent organization, Dairy Management Inc. The powerful Council boasts a who’s who of big agriculture and even pharmaceuticals as members, and last year, Vilsack urged Democratic candidates not to criticize or target agricultural monopolies, citing the potential of job losses. Vilsack was also a major booster of the controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal. …

“[Sen. Tammy] Duckworth’s husband draws a salary from VAE Inc. and Foxhole Technology Inc.” — two military contractors — “to the tune of millions of government dollars per year.”

“Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, also on Biden’s VP shortlist with a particularly influential role as the chair of the drafting committee, likewise has potential financial conflicts. Bottoms’ husband, Derek Bottoms, is vice president of employment practices and associate relations at Home Depot, a company he’s been with for 18 years, and one with a dreadful record on workers’ rights.”

Biden Advisor an “Apologist for Torture,” an Architect of “Kill Lists”

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JEFFREY KAYE, jeffkaye at sbcglobal.net, @jeff_kaye
Author of Cover-up at GuantanamoKaye said today: “According to former Obama senior adviser, Valerie Jarrett, putative Democratic Party candidate for president Joe Biden picked a ‘superstar‘ when he appointed ex-CIA Deputy Director and White House attorney Avril Haines to head his national security and foreign policy team.

“No matter how much Obama/Biden administration officials praise her, Avril Haines’ role always seems to be making the unpalatable palatable, whether it’s prettifying companies like [data mining] contractor Palantir, agencies like the CIA, policies like ‘targeted killing,’ or war criminals like current CIA chief, ‘Bloody’ Gina Haspel.

“During Haspel’s contentious Senate confirmation, the Trump administration turned to Haines to legitimate Haspel, whose crimes included helping destroy CIA torture tapes, as well as participating in an unspecified management role at more than one CIA black site. Haines called Haspel ‘intelligent, compassionate, and fair.’ But that wasn’t all that Avril Haines has done for the CIA. She also participated in an ‘accountability board’ inquiry into CIA interference in the Senate investigation of CIA torture. She, of course, found no wrong-doing by the CIA.

“Haines claims to find torture immoral, yet she supports known torture official Haspel. Additionally, she was a White House lawyer when the UN Committee on Torture condemned the Obama-supported Army Field Manual on interrogations for using methods of interrogation, including sleep deprivation and sensory deprivation, that can cause psychotic reactions in prisoners, raising serious concerns of U.S. current use of torture. Did Haines agree with the Obama administration’s decision to defend the condemned techniques?

“We don’t know, as many questions haven’t been asked in the rush to anoint her a ‘superstar’ appointment. One anonymous progressive leader told The Daily Beast, ‘Being where any decent person should be on a few issues doesn’t cancel out an endorsement of torturers.’ It is sad that in 2020 ‘the leader of a progressive nonprofit that works on national security issues’ would fear ‘professional reprisal’ for daring to criticize Biden’s choice!

“The problems with Haines don’t stop with her shady connections to torture. It’s known that Avril Haines was Obama’s CIA deputy director. But most of the public doesn’t know she was also Obama’s direct advisor in constructing his targeted assassination ‘Kill List’ policy.

“Haines supposedly made Obama’s drone assassination program more transparent and less liable to kill innocents. But a 2016 ACLU examination of the policy Haines helped construct concluded it fell ‘far short of the standards for transparency and accountability needed to ensure that the government’s targeted killing program is lawful under domestic and international law.’ In particular, the Haines-influenced policy relied on ‘looser, law-of-war standards that govern conduct in war, rather than the more protective rules that apply under international human rights law.’

“Avril Haines is presented as a humane, intelligent and compassionate alternative to the typical white male elite that run the CIA and other such agencies. But her record is clear. She is an apologist for torture operations. She helped create kill lists for the CIA and U.S. Special Forces. She is not an alternative to the barbarism of the Trump administration, but a dire predictor of Biden’s obeisance as president to an out-of-control national security establishment.”