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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.”