Biden’s DOJ Picks Assailed for Corporate Ties in Letter to Klain

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Liberal groups on Thursday demanded the Biden administration stop appointing Justice Department officials with strong corporate ties and that those already nominated recuse themselves from key antitrust cases.

About 46 groups issued the demands in a letter to White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain.

Biden’s DOJ Picks Assailed for Corporate Ties in Letter to Klain

“We are concerned by the recent appointments of individuals with backgrounds defending large corporations to the Department of Justice,” reads the letter obtained by Bloomberg News.

Attorney General Merrick Garland was sworn in on Thursday morning.

The groups added: “The Biden administration has an opportunity to begin the process of rebuilding public trust in government through reinvigorating the Department of Justice. This necessitates putting individuals with track records of pursuing corporate accountability in key leadership roles in the department.”

The letter was signed by groups including the American Economic Liberties Project, Americans for Financial Reform, the Center for Biological Diversity, Demand Progress and Greenpeace.

The groups are especially alarmed about the choice of Brian Boynton as the acting head of the Civil Division, because he played a role in T-Mobile U.S. Inc.’s acquisition of Sprint Corp. while a lawyer at WilmerHale. They also object to work he has done on behalf of for-profit colleges.

The groups raised similar concerns about Lisa Monaco, Biden’s pick for deputy attorney general, because she has advised companies including Boeing Co., Exxon Mobil Corp., SoftBank Group and Apple Inc. They also object to Emily Loeb, appointed as associate deputy attorney general, because she once represented Apple during a House antitrust investigation. Another potential nominee, Susan Davies, worked with Facebook Inc., the letter said.

The letter questioned the perceived influence of Karen Dunn and Jamie Gorelick, even if neither lands formal jobs within the government. Dunn has represented a number of large tech companies including Uber Technologies Inc. and Apple, as well as Amazon.com Inc.’s Jeff Bezos, while Gorelick has close ties to Alphabet Inc.’s Google.

“We ask that advocates of corporate accountability, not individuals with deep ties to corporate actors, be prioritized during the appointment process,” the letter reads. “We respectfully submit that the above-named individuals who already have been hired to the department should be recused from all matters, including personnel selection, relating to antitrust or other areas that could impact adversely corporations that they previously advised.”

The letter notably does not mention Vanita Gupta, a longtime civil rights attorney and former Obama Justice Department aide, who is Biden’s pick for the No. 3 job at the department. Gupta holds between $5 million to $25 million in stock the chemical company Avantor Inc., of which her father is chairman, according to her financial disclosure. She has also earned income from Paramount Pictures for the rights to her life story.

One progressive leader said Gupta didn’t draw the same scrutiny because she hasn’t worked for technology companies and has long been seen as a friend to the liberal movement.

The White House and the Justice Department did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the letter.

With many top jobs in the West Wing and agencies already filled, progressive groups have now turned their attention to jobs at Justice and Biden’s antitrust agenda. These groups want to ensure liberal allies end up working inside the administration, so they can influence policy, a lesson learned from the Obama administration when some of the groups say they were shut out of the conversation.

So far, their pressure campaign has worked to both install allies in key jobs and block people deemed insufficiently liberal. But progressives are particularly wary of Garland, who they see as too much of and for the Washington establishment.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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