Warren’s coalition is developing a hit list of the types of people they’ll oppose — what one source called 'hell no' appointments — in a Clinton administration.
By Patrick Temple-West
09/06/16 05:05 AM EDT
Sen. Elizabeth Warren and her allies aren’t waiting for Election Day: Months before the votes have been counted, they’re already exerting pressure on Hillary Clinton’s transition team over key hiring decisions.
Warren’s coalition is developing a hit list of the types of people they’ll oppose — what one source called “hell no” appointments — in a Clinton administration. They’re vowing to fight nominees with ties to big banks, and warn against corporate executives assuming government roles in regulating the industries that made them rich. Warren has a mantra — “personnel is policy” — and behind the scenes, Warren, her allies and a left-leaning think tank affiliated with her have fanned out to try to influence the Clinton hiring process long before the election results come in.
The liberal wing’s early jockeying is already paying off. POLITICO reported this week that Rohit Chopra, who was hired by Warren at the CFPB, is joining Clinton’s transition team. And Heather Boushey, popular among progressives because of her focus on income inequality, was recently chosen as the team’s chief economist. Liberals applauded both hires as a sign Clinton is taking them seriously.
What is more, the Democratic Party platform embraced the senator’s position that only officials “who are not beholden to the industries they regulate” should get appointments.
Warren, who declined to comment through an aide, has said little publicly about the transition, in contrast to her more vocal supporters, but sources familiar with her thinking say she will sound the alarm if she feels the need to block a major appointment.
Her aides and Clinton’s people are in regular communication. And a think tank allied with Warren, along with progressive activists, is meeting with the transition team to ensure that a Democratic president-elect keeps Warren’s personnel preferences in mind when making appointments for financial policy jobs.
The showdown over personnel is stoking tension within the party, especially in the wake of the hard-fought primary between Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders. Some progressives fear that if Republicans hold the Senate, Clinton might cut deals with them and choose people with corporate ties. And some alumni of the Obama and Bill Clinton administrations are drawing fire for allegedly lacking progressive credentials.
“Our big point to the Clinton transition people will be that when it comes to positions with power over Wall Street, it is important to appoint people with a proven track record of challenging corporate power,” said Adam Green, co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, a political action committee that claims almost 1 million members.
Green, whose group is close to Warren, said he will have an initial meeting soon with members of Clinton’s transition team in Washington and expects to keep the conversation going.
The progressives will be applying pressure through what Green called “public clamoring” for Clinton to hire Warren-type people and “behind-the-scenes conversations,” he said.
One concrete, if indirect, way Warren is influencing the process is via the Roosevelt Institute, a New York-based tax-exempt organization that is hunting for hundreds of candidates to fill government roles in a Clinton administration.
The Roosevelt Institute is stocked with the senator’s allies who talk regularly with her current staff. The institute’s president, Felicia Wong, is in direct contact with members of the transition team and Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta.
Warren allies at the institute include liberal economist and Nobel Prize winner Joseph Stiglitz and Damon Silvers, policy director and special counsel for the AFL-CIO labor federation, both of whom have worked with her in the past. Warren’s chief of staff, Dan Geldon, was a Roosevelt fellow in 2009.
Roosevelt staffers are making calls to Wall Street watchdogs and investor advocates to get their advice about personnel for financial regulatory positions.
A Roosevelt spokesman said the screening project was not requested by Warren (or Clinton, for that matter), describing its participation in the process as “organic.”
A Clinton campaign spokesman declined to comment on Warren and the advocacy groups’ involvement in the transition process.
Brad Miller, a Roosevelt Institute fellow and former congressman who was an early critic of subprime lending abuses, said Warren’s allies are considering three categories of personnel for financial regulatory jobs: People they want Clinton to put in positions of power; people “we’re not going to lay down in the tracks to oppose,” and “hell no” people.
Fifteen progressive groups, including Green’s, sent a letter to Clinton earlier in August calling for her to end the “revolving door” career path for people coming into regulatory roles from corporate America. According to the letter, also signed by such groups as Public Citizen and the Communications Workers of America, Clinton had pledged to consult with Warren on financial regulatory appointments.
The goal, Green said, is to have more people associated with Warren and Stiglitz represented in positions throughout the government, “and not just Robert Rubin clones.” Rubin, who once co-chaired Goldman Sachs and was a top executive at Citigroup, was a Treasury secretary under Bill Clinton, where he pushed for market deregulation and deficit reduction.
Rubin’s influence in the Obama administration is what Warren’s supporters are trying to prevent this time.
They point to Michael Froman, a former chief of staff for Rubin at Treasury, who was still getting paid by Citigroup while working as a senior official on Obama’s 2008 transition team. Froman went on to work in Obama’s White House, where he is U.S. trade representative.
Froman's office did not respond to requests for comment.
Some members of the Warren coalition are already naming who would and wouldn’t be acceptable to them in a Clinton administration.
Green said he thinks former Democratic Sens. Byron Dorgan and Ted Kaufman would challenge corporate power. Others are pressing for a high-level appointment for Gary Gensler, the campaign’s chief financial officer and a former chairman of the CFTC who is beloved by Warren and her allies despite having worked at Goldman Sachs for 18 years.
They say Gensler proved himself an aggressive regulator, spearheading the drive to overhaul the derivatives market, which had helped fuel the financial crisis.
At the same time, the groups’ lobbying could make life difficult for some Clinton insiders who find themselves facing questions about their progressive credentials.
Kurt Walters, a member of the Warren coalition and an official with Demand Progress, called for scrutiny of Treasury Department official Antonio Weiss and former State Department officials Tom Nides and Robert Hormats — who all worked for Wall Street firms before joining the government. People like them “should receive a very high degree of skepticism” if they are considered for administration roles, Walters said.
Nides declined to comment. A Treasury Department spokesman declined to comment about Weiss, who is a counselor to Secretary Jack Lew. Hormats could not be reached for comment.
Also on Walters’ list: Clinton adviser Gene Sperling, who held top economic positions for both Obama and Bill Clinton, where he worked with Rubin.
Sperling has a track record that “suggests someone in alignment with the worldview and concerns of the financial industry more than an independent-minded individual ready to stand up to Wall Street,” said Walters, whose group also signed the letter to Clinton about the revolving door.
“I don’t think he is on the ‘hell no’ list,” Miller said of Sperling, who was hired last year to advise a hedge fund and PIMCO, a huge investment firm. Yet “he is not someone who reformers would say 'mark on the ledger as one of ours.’”
Sperling declined to comment.
With Republicans expected to maintain control of the House after the Nov. 8 elections, they will likely try to block much of Clinton’s legislative agenda. That makes her executive power, which Obama grew to embrace, even more significant.
“The executive branch will be incredibly important in what is likely to be another divided congress,” said Lisa Gilbert, an official with Public Citizen, which is preparing to publish a report about some of the economic experts advising Clinton and Republican nominee Donald Trump."
“The ability to get things done is going to be determined by who staffs agencies. What important protections come out of the administration is determined by the personnel who are there making the choices.”
Read more: http://www.politico.com/story/2016/09/elizabeth-warren-clinton-administration-appointments-227699#ixzz4JVKqvlQU