News Release Archive - Biden's Cabinet

Opposition to Neera Tanden Builds

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Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) announced on Friday that he would vote against Neera Tanden to head the Office of Management and Budget, increasing the possibility that she cannot be confirmed for the influential position. 

JEFF COHEN, jeff@rootsaction.org, @Roots_Action

    Co-founder of RootsAction.org and its policy adviser, Cohen said today: “For decades, Democratic Party leaders and top advisers have wallowed in donations from the super-rich while moving the party toward policies that have shifted wealth and income from working-class people to elites. Consummate fundraiser Neera Tanden is a prime symbol of corporatism within a party that once fought for working-class interests, and that’s why RootsAction has opposed her OMB nomination since it was announced in December. We call on the Biden administration to nominate someone who will put the public interest ahead of corporate interests when it comes to overseeing federal budgetary and regulatory policies.”

The group’s action alert reads in part: “In recent years, Tanden has become known as one of the loudest voices of the neoliberal establishment. … Her coziness with corporate elites raises questions about her potential role in the regulatory process. As the Washington Post recently reported, she has ‘mingled with deep-pocketed donors who made their fortunes on Wall Street, in Silicon Valley and in other powerful sectors of corporate America.’ And, ‘at formal pitches and swanky fundraisers, Tanden personally cultivated the bevy of benefactors fueling the $45 million to $50 million annual budget’ of her think tank, the Center for American Progress.”

See Washington Post piece from Dec. 5: “Neera Tanden, Biden’s Pick for Budget Chief, Runs a Think Tank Backed by Corporate and Foreign Interests.”

Vilsack’s “Cozy Relationship With Big Ag Makes Him A Non-Starter at USDA”

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President Biden’s nominee to head the Department of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack, is scheduled to have his hearing Tuesday.

CommonDreams reports: “Amid Broader Concerns Over Biden USDA Nominee, Watchdog Flags ‘Disturbing Suppression’ of Science by Vilsack.”

WENONAH HAUTER, SETH GLADSTONE, sgladstone@fwwatch.org, @foodandwater
Hauter and Gladstone are with the group Food & Water Watch, which recently put out the statement: “Tom Vilsack’s Cozy Relationship With Big Ag Makes Him A Non-Starter at USDA.” They have joined with RootsAction and other groups to advocate against his nomination as secretary of agriculture.

Food & Water Watch states: “The Biden administration will fail rural America right out of the gate with a choice like Tom Vilsack for Secretary of Agriculture. ..

“As [Obama’s] Secretary of Agriculture, Vilsack failed to hold up his promise of addressing antitrust issues in the agricultural industry. A series of public meetings on the issue held jointly with the Department of Justice never resulted in regulatory action, and USDA policy continued to favor large-scale, corporate farming at the expense of family farms. Vilsack went on to become a lobbyist for the Dairy Export Industry, raking in more than $1 million in his first year, at a time when prospects for dairy farmers were so bleak that some received a suicide prevention hotline number along with their dairy checks. The prospect of Vilsack returning to head the USDA is an egregious example of a revolving door between industry and government.”

Also, see from the Guardian: “Tom Vilsack’s Cozy Relationship With Big Ag Makes Him a Non-Starter at USDA.”

See from The Counter: “How USDA Distorted Data to Conceal Decades of Discrimination against Black Farmers.”

In These Times reports that while Vil­sack was secretary of agriculture during the Obama administration, “he angered pro­gres­sive groups by let­ting poul­try fac­to­ries self-reg­u­late, speed­ing up the approval process for GMO crops, shelv­ing new reg­u­la­tions on big agri­cul­ture at the industry’s behest, and step­ping in to craft an indus­try-friend­ly nation­al GMO-labelling bill intend­ed to replace a pio­neer­ing stricter stan­dard in Ver­mont. The move helped earn him the deri­sive moniker ‘Mr. Mon­san­to.'”

Groups Organizing Against Tom “Mr. Monsanto” Vilsack as Secretary of Agriculture

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WENONAH HAUTER, SETH GLADSTONE, sgladstone@fwwatch.org, @foodandwater
Hauter and Gladstone are with the group Food & Water Watch, which recently put out the statement “Tom Vilsack, a Friend of Big Ag, is the Wrong Choice for USDA.” They have joined with RootsAction and other groups to advocate against his nomination as secretary of agriculture.
See from the Guardian: “Tom Vilsack’s Cozy Relationship With Big Ag Makes Him a Non-Starter at USDA.”

“Tom Vilsack has made a career of catering to the whims of corporate agriculture giants — some of whom he has gone to work for — while failing to fight for struggling family farmers at every turn,” said Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch. “America needs an Agriculture Secretary that will finally prioritize sustainable family farming and national food security over corporate profits. Tom Vilsack has proven not to be the leader we need.”

See from The Counter: “How USDA Distorted Data to Conceal Decades of Discrimination against Black Farmers.”

      In These Times reports that while Vil­sack was secretary of agriculture during the Obama administration, he “resist­ed Repub­li­can attacks on food stamps and upped fed­er­al sup­port for organ­ic food – he angered pro­gres­sive groups by let­ting poul­try fac­to­ries self-reg­u­late, speed­ing up the approval process for GMO crops, shelv­ing new reg­u­la­tions on big agri­cul­ture at the industry’s behest, and step­ping in to craft an indus­try-friend­ly nation­al GMO-labelling bill intend­ed to replace a pio­neer­ing stricter stan­dard in Ver­mont. The move helped earn him the deri­sive moniker ‘Mr. Mon­san­to.'”

Biden Continuing Trump’s Targeting of Venezuela

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Reuters reports: “Biden will recognize Guaidó as Venezuela’s leader, top diplomat says.”

AP reports: “Carlos Vecchio, [Trump-backed opposition leader Juan] Guaidó’s envoy in Washington who the U.S. recognizes as Venezuela’s ambassador, tweeted photos of himself at Biden’s inauguration. The invitation to attend was touted by Venezuela’s opposition as evidence the Biden administration will continue its strong support and resist entreaties by Maduro for dialogue that the U.S. has strenuously rejected until now.”

STEVE ELLNER, sellner74@gmail.com
Ellner is an associate managing editor of Latin American Perspectives. He is the editor of the recently published book Latin American Extractivism: Dependency, Resource Nationalism and Resistance in Broad Perspectives

He said today: “In spite of claims to the contrary, the Biden foreign policy team is not breaking with the Trump administration in its policy toward Venezuela. … The Biden people claim that their plans to enlist the support of allies is an innovation in that it corrects Trump’s go-it-alone approach toward Venezuela. In fact, Trump did seek and attain the support of over 50 nations (hardly a majority in the UN’s General Assembly) by taking advantage of the fact that much of Europe and Latin America was in the hands of conservative and right-wing leaders.

“In addition,” said Ellner, Secretary of State nominee Antony Blinken has indicated that “the Biden administration will provide Venezuela with much-needed humanitarian assistance. The Trump administration, however, also extended Venezuela humanitarian aid. But it was channeled through the parallel government of Juan Guaidó resulting in multiple denunciations of misuse of funds — not to say blatant acts of corruption — by members of his team who resigned in protest.

“Blinken also claims Biden will embark on a new course in that it will ‘more effectively target’ sanctions. Exactly what this means is unclear, but decades of the use of sanctions throughout the world demonstrate that, regardless of intent, the real victims of sanctions are the entire population. Even the Trump administration announced that the supply of medicine and food would not be affected but in fact it was. Everyone in the global commercial chain feared reprisals if they had any interaction at all with Venezuelan companies, both private and state-owned.

“Far from regime change, the starting point of U.S. policy toward Venezuela has to be recognizing Nicolás Maduro as the nation’s legitimate president. There may have been some irregularities in the Venezuelan presidential elections of 2018, as there have been in U.S. electoral contests, but there was no credible evidence of the votes not getting counted correctly, that is, electoral fraud. The commercial media’s uncritical employment of the term ‘authoritarian’ and ‘dictator’ to refer to Maduro is nothing short of deceptive and it ignores context, namely the multiple violent attempts to remove him, even physically.

“Maduro has clearly indicated his interest in negotiations with the U.S. and of late has expressed willingness to make concessions specifically regarding the release of several jailed U.S. citizens. He has also recently indicated his openness to concessions on the economic front.”

Questions for Blinken Today

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President-elect Joe Biden’s nominee for secretary of state, Anthony Blinken, is scheduled to have his confirmation hearing today at 2:00 p.m. ET.

DAVID SWANSON, davidcnswanson@gmail.com@davidcnswanson
Swanson is executive director of World Beyond War and campaign coordinator of RootsAction.org, which just sent out an email to their membership urging Senators to ask Binken serious questions: “Blinken should be asked about his role in helping start wars in Iraq, Syria, and Libya. Which of those wars does he now regret? What would he do to prevent similar catastrophes going forward?

“The trend of the past dozen years is away from ground wars in favor of air wars. This often means more killing, more injuring, and more making people homeless, but with an even higher percentage of all that suffering concentrated on the non-U.S. side. We need to know whether Blinken favors continuing this trend and how he claims to defend it morally and legally.

“Much of the U.S. public has been wanting an end to endless wars, and President-elect Biden has promised it. Blinken has suggested that endless wars shouldn’t really be ended. We need to know which of these wars, if any, he supports actually ending every U.S. role in: Yemen? Afghanistan? Syria? Iraq? Somalia?

   “Blinken co-founded WestExec Advisors, a company that helps war profiteers get contracts, and serves as a revolving door for unscrupulous individuals who get rich from private money for what they do and whom they get to know in their public jobs. WestExec has paid Blinken nearly $1.2 million for advising corporations, including seven that have recently lobbied the State Department, including Facebook, Boeing, and Blackstone.” See the full backgrounder.

See past accuracy.org news releases regarding Blinken.

Biden Nominating Victoria “F*ck the EU” Nuland

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Various media outlets are reporting that Joe Biden will nominate Victoria Nuland for the influential role of under secretary of state for political affairs.

JAMES CARDEN, jamescarden09@gmail.com
Carden is the executive editor of the American Committee for East-West Accord and founding editor thescrum.substack.com. He is also a former adviser to the U.S.-Russia Bilateral Commission.

He said today: “Victoria Nuland has had a long and storied career in the foreign service and for a long time was viewed with something like reverence by career officers. Nuland served as U.S. Ambassador to NATO and later was national security adviser to vice president Dick Cheney. After that, Nuland found herself on the ‘outs’ at the State Department during the early Obama years. But Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had other plans for Nuland, the well-connected wife of the neoconservative publicist Robert Kagan. Clinton, to the astonishment of many of the political appointees in Clinton’s orbit, plucked Nuland from the obscurity of her position at the Naval War College to become Clinton’s spokeswoman.

“This was the road back to influence and Nuland used it, quickly ascending to the position of assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs. It is from that post that she oversaw U.S. efforts to encourage a street coup in Kiev — going so far as to hand out cookies to anti-government protesters alongside the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt. The February 2014 coup, undertaken by an alliance of pro-Western liberalizers and hardline anti-Semitic militants, resulted not in a more peaceful order, but in a civil war (in which both Russia and NATO funded and armed their proxies) that resulted in the loss of over 10,000 lives and the displacement of well over a million people from the Russophone east. After the coup, Nuland became an unwitting symbol of American heavy-handedness in the region when a call between her and Pyatt leaked in which they were seen to be hand-picking personnel for the new government in Ukraine. What would the EU think? ‘Fuck the EU,’ exclaimed Nuland, a diplomat.

“After the coup — violent and unnecessary, given that the deposed Ukrainian leader had agreed to an early peaceful transition at the ballot box, Nuland bragged at a conference sponsored by Chevron that: ‘Since Ukraine’s independence in 1991, the United States has supported Ukrainians as they build democratic skills and institutions, as they promote civic participation and good governance. … We’ve invested over $5 billion to assist Ukraine in these and other goals that will ensure a secure and prosperous and democratic Ukraine.’

“In the years following, we have ‘invested’ a great deal more money into Ukraine — for questionable returns. But the affair has not seemed to have clouded Nuland’s career prospects. Smart, well-connected, and well-liked, she, like many of her fellow neocons, seems to move from strength to strength in this town, never held to account for the damage they’ve caused. After her stint in the State Department ended (she was replaced in the early Trump years by the woefully unqualified neocon operative A. Wess Mitchell), Nuland took up what one can only assume were lucrative positions on the other side of the revolving door at the Center for a New American Security (where she served as CEO), the Boston Consulting Group and the Albright Stonebridge Group (from which, perhaps not coincidentally, her future boss, Biden’s nominee for deputy secretary of state, Wendy Sherman, hails).

“Her views on Russia and European affairs are well known. Less known, however, are her views on America’s role in the Middle East. Let’s hope that changes because in an article in Foreign Affairs earlier this year, Nuland lamented that the U.S., under Trump, ‘made both Putin’s and Assad’s lives easier by neutralizing a shared threat, the Islamic State, or, ISIS.’

“As Biden’s undersecretary of political affairs, Nuland would have immense influence over policy and personnel. Progressives in Congress and their partners in the media, think tank world and among grassroots activists should join forces with the growing caucus of anti-interventionist Republicans on the Hill and vigorously oppose this nomination.”

Buttigieg at Transportation Gives Campaign “Investors” Great Return

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President-elect Joe Biden is nominating Pete Buttigieg as Secretary of Transportation.

MAX MORAN, moran@cepr.net@revolvingdoorDC

Moran is a researcher at the Revolving Door Project and wrote the piece “Biden’s cabinet could do a lot – if he resists the urge to fill it with ‘consensus’ picks” last month. The group also just launched a Personnel Map.
The group recently posted the piece “Buttigieg’s Campaign Donors Would Likely Get A Strong R.O.I. [Return on Investment] If He Headed Transportation” which states: “Buttigieg’s tendency to shift policy positions based on the preferences of large donors remains a significant concern if he were chosen to head a cabinet department. …

“Buttigieg’s campaign policy director Sonal Shah (a former Goldman Sachs and Google executive whose market-centric vision of change we have previously written about) regularly headlined high-dollar fundraisers for wealthy donors (whom the campaign tellingly called its ‘investors’). By tapping his national policy director to oversee big donor fundraisers, Buttigieg eroded what had typically been a dividing line between campaign policymaking and solicitation of campaign contributions.

“The industry connections of Buttigieg’s donors are of even greater concern. According to FEC data collected in the Revolving Door Project’s Presidential Power Map, Buttigieg’s 2020 campaign raked in large contributions from top executives at major technology and defense corporations like Google (from whom he received over $44,000), Apple (from whom he received over $16,000), Amazon (over $12,000), and Raytheon (over $8,000). Public disclosures show that all four of these companies have repeatedly lobbied the Department of Transportation in the last year. Other major corporations whose executives donated to Buttigieg include Walmart and Allstate, as well as several members on the boards of Boeing, JetBlue, and American Airlines (all of whom, again, have lobbied DOT in the last year). Bradley Tusk, a former lobbyist for Uber who made more than $100 million helping the rideshare giant expand operations in New York, was one of the Buttigieg campaign’s top fundraiser hosts. …

“Buttigieg’s consulting work for McKinsey included serving on a team of consultants that advised the United States Postal Service (USPS) on partial privatization and the replacement of its unionized workforce with non-unionized labor. He also served on a McKinsey team that advised Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan on mass layoffs, sparking a lawsuit and scathing anti-privatization report from Michigan’s Attorney General.

“The next Transportation Secretary will have many critical issues to tackle, from undoing the damage wrought by Elaine Chao, to regulating a bailed-out and scandal–ridden airline industry, to overseeing developments in the rideshare economy, corporate retail logistics, and autonomous vehicles. A nominee connected to major industry donors will undermine public confidence in President-elect Biden’s stated goal to ‘make government work for everyone, not just the wealthy and well-connected.'”

Vilsack at Agriculture: “Mr. Mon­san­to”?

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Numerous media outlets are reporting that Tom Vilsack will be Joe Biden’s nominee for agriculture secretary.

MITCH JONES, via Seth Gladstone – sgladstone@fwwatch.org, @foodandwater

Jones is policy director of Food & Water Watch, which recently put out the statement “Tom Vilsack, a Friend of Big Ag, is the Wrong Choice for USDA.” Jones said: “Vilsack has made a career of catering to the whims of corporate agriculture giants — some of whom he has gone to work for — while failing to fight for struggling family farmers at every turn. America needs an agriculture secretary that will finally prioritize sustainable family farming and national food security over corporate profits. Tom Vilsack has proven he will not be the agriculture leader we need.”

Background: Earlier this year, Branko Marcetic wrote in In These Times that while “Vil­sack resist­ed Repub­li­can attacks on food stamps and upped fed­er­al sup­port for organ­ic food – he angered pro­gres­sive groups by let­ting poul­try fac­to­ries self-reg­u­late, speed­ing up the approval process for GMO crops, shelv­ing new reg­u­la­tions on big agri­cul­ture at the industry’s behest, and step­ping in to craft an indus­try-friend­ly nation­al GMO-labelling bill intend­ed to replace a pio­neer­ing stricter stan­dard in Ver­mont. The move helped earn him the deri­sive moniker ‘Mr. Mon­san­to’…

“Days after step­ping down as agri­cul­ture sec­re­tary [in the Obama administration], 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.”

Also, see recent Politico report for summary of objections to Vilsack from civil rights groups.

Austin at Pentagon: Good for Empire, Raytheon

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Joe Biden has reportedly selected retired general Lloyd Austin III as his nominee to head the Pentagon. Michèle Flournoy had been the reported favorite for the position before her hawkishness and ties to weapons makers drew criticism.

MATTHEW HOH, matthew_hoh@riseup.net
Hoh wrote “Biden’s Moral Hazard” in November regarding the malfeasance inherent in Biden’s national security picks. He is a senior fellow at the Center for International Policy, a Marine Corps combat veteran of the Iraq War, and is a 100 percent disabled veteran. In 2009, he resigned his State Department position in Afghanistan in response to the escalation of that war.

He said today: “Other than a difference in identity, there is not a real difference between Austin and Flournoy. Perhaps Flournoy would have been more ideological and more keen on proving her ideas and concepts of war correct, ideas and concepts formed without ever knowing the reality of war. However, Austin’s 41 years of military service do not seem to have imparted on him the wisdom of the folly, destruction and immorality of war.

“Austin was integral in the disastrous wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Yemen, as well as the escalation of the vicious, illegal and counter-productive drone wars. His greatest achievement seems to have been overseeing the U.S. retreat from Iraq. Like too many in Washington, D.C., Austin quickly exposed the phony charade of public service by trading in his decades of time in uniform for a high-paying directorship with Raytheon, a stake in a military industry investment firm, and the establishment of his own consultancy whose clients are undoubtedly weapons companies.

“Biden’s pick of Austin is symptomatic of an American political system that values symbol over substance, utilizes rhetoric to cover corruption, and ignores the brutal truth of reality in favor of platitude and hagiography.

“Austin is a good pick for the American Empire, the weapons industry and the bloodthirsty foreign policy elite of the Democratic Party. Tens of millions of people in the Muslim world will continue to suffer cruelly through America’s unending wars, while U.S. taxpayers hemorrhage trillions of dollars to the war industry. Meanwhile, the true dangers to the American people: Covid, climate change, racial injustice, economic inequality, et al., continue to go unaddressed.”

MARIAMNE EVERETT, [in France], mariamne.everett@mycit.ie@EverettMariamne
Everett wrote the piece “Biden: A War Cabinet?” just before the election. She is an intern at the Institute for Public Accuracy and radio presenter with World Radio Paris where she hosts the podcast “Hidden Paris.” She noted today about Austin:

* “He has been on the board of directors of the arms company Raytheon since 2016, a company from which Saudia Arabia purchased bombs to drop on Yemeni civilians.
* “He played a major role in the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

* “Lloyd Austin was significantly involved in the Syrian rebel program.”

Kenneth P. Vogel of the New York Times tweeted: “BIDEN’s reported pick for Defense Secretary, retired Army General LLOYD J. AUSTIN III, is a member of a private equity fund [Pine Island] that invests in defense contractors, & boasts its members’ ‘access, network & expertise’ are an advantage in government contracting.”

See from Glenn Greenwald; “Biden’s Choice For Pentagon Chief Further Erodes a Key U.S. Norm: Civilian Control.”

Flournoy: Hawk with Ties to Weapons Industry

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The Washington Post reports: “Liberal groups urge Biden not to name Flournoy as secretary of defense.”

One of the groups, RootsAction, released a statement: “Pentagon Papers Whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg, Nobel Peace Laureate Jody Williams Go Public with Strong Opposition to Michele Flournoy As Secretary of Defense.”

JODY WILLIAMS, jwilliams@nobelwomensinitiative.org@jodywilliams97
Williams received the Nobel Peace Prize for her work with the International Campaign to Ban Landmines. She is currently chair of the Nobel Women’s Initiative.

She said: “If President-elect Biden really has a progressive agenda in mind for his administration, he should appoint members of his cabinet and other high-level positions who demonstrate progressive thinking and do not move this fractured country backwards. Nominating Michèle Flournoy for Defense Secretary would not be forward thinking. We do not need a hawk with relationships with the weapons industry.”

PAT ALVISO, mfsooc@earthlink.nethttps://twitter.com/mfso_us
Alviso is national coordinator of Military Families Speak Out. She said today: “The appointment of Michèle Flournoy as Secretary of Defense would be both wrong-headed and a huge setback for our troops and military families. After disastrous policies that have caused almost 20 years of death and untold suffering in a war that never should have happened in the first place, we deserve better. Flournoy pushed for the surge in Afghanistan and believes that we need to leave a residual force in Afghanistan. Why? If thousands of U.S. troops couldn’t accomplish our ever-changing mission, what good could possibly come out of leaving a small force there? Flournoy and the think tank she co-founded (the Center for a New American Security) promise more of the same — military solutions for conflict. If Biden truly cares about military families, as he has professed, then he should surround himself with the voices of those who value diplomacy over military force and find ways to bring all of our troops home now.”

See also: “Statement Opposing Michele Flournoy as Defense Secretary.”