K Street Lobbyists And Corporate Confederacy: We Need Our Black Agents In Biden Administration To Meet Diversity Goals

K Street Lobbyists And Corporate Confederacy: We Need Our Black Agents In Biden Administration To Meet Diversity Goals

K Street
K Street lobbyists and corporate confederacy: We need our Black agents in the Biden administration to meet diversity goals. Photo: Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden speaks in Wilmington, Del., Sept. 2, 2020, about school reopenings. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

People may be protesting against racial injustice across the country, but there is a political battle happening behind the scenes that could affect a future White House administration.

Black and Latino lobbyists are pushing back against progressives who want a Joe Biden administration that doesn’t include former Wall Street executives or corporate lobbyists. 

Such a ban would end up shutting out minorities and could make a potential Biden administration less diverse, according Black and Latino lobbyists on K Street — a major thoroughfare in D.C. known as a center for lobbyists and advocacy groups.

The fight started back in April. Eight progressive groups wrote a letter asking former Vice President Biden to promise not to appoint any “current or former Wall Street executives or corporate lobbyists, or people affiliated with the fossil fuel, health insurance or private prison corporations” to his transition team, according to inside sources.

Some minority lobbyists didn’t take the letter lightly.

“Given the wokeness of these people, I find it odd they are so comfortable lumping a large group of people together. They have an agenda that is limiting and it has always been limiting,” said Michael Williams, founder of the Williams Group, one of the few Black-owned lobbying shops in D.C., in an interview with The Hill.

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Williams was a special assistant for legislative affairs to former President Bill Clinton.

Black Democrats on Capitol Hill and K Street think what the progressives are asking for is in direct conflict with the DNC’s diversity goals.

“The long-running lack of diversity in top economic jobs has come into stark relief as the U.S undergoes a wrenching national debate over excessive police violence against Black Americans and the deep economic disparities that minority communities suffer,” Politico reported.

“We’ve got to fix all of the problems that were created over the last four years,” said Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.), a senior lawmaker on the House Financial Services Committee and a member of the Congressional Black Caucus, in a Politico interview. “We’re going to need every hand on deck.”

Democrats have already floated names of some Black business leaders who could be potential picks for Biden Cabinet positions. They include Roger Ferguson, the CEO of financial services giant TIAA and a onetime vice-chair of the Federal Reserve, as well as John Rogers and Mellody Hobson, the co-CEOs of Ariel Investments, according to Politico.

“We have seen the effects of corporate control over the American government for our entire lives. It has blocked universal access to health care, real action on the climate crisis and started endless wars that waste taxpayer dollars we need to invest in schools and jobs,” said Emily Mayer, political director of IfNotNow, one of the groups trying to discourage Biden from appointing executives and lobbyists. “We reject the false choice between having the people leading our country represent the diversity of our nation and removing corporate control from our politics.”

Biden hasn’t publicly taken a stance either way, although he has never shied away from lobbyists. In fact, in March he planned a VIP swamp fundraiser with lobbyists in Miami. Still, he hasn’t responded to the letter.

“Vice President Biden has made it clear that he’s going to make it a priority to clean up Trump’s mess by putting in place tough safeguards against the sort of rampant cronyism and lobbyist influence we’ve seen over the last four years, even as Biden ensures that his administration’s staffing reflects America’s diversity,” said Biden for President spokesman Michael Gwin. 

Nicole Venable, a K Street lobbyist at Invariant, also weighed in on the move by the progressives. Venable founded Black Girl Magic Network, an association of female lobbyists of color and she served as a senior aide in the Clinton White House.

“The new administration will have their hands tied behind their back if they can only consider people who have either never worked in government or who have no experience in the private sector,” Venable told The Hill. “You want a mix of staffers who have government experience, been ‘downtown,’ in trade associations, who have corporate experience or some who have it all.”

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Alliance for Youth Action, one of the groups that signed the April letter to Biden, pointed out that progressives are particularly concerned about certain corporate lobbyists serving in a future administration.

“The letter we’ve sent doesn’t call for a ban on lobbyists, it calls for a ban on explicitly CORPORATE lobbyists like the ones who have been able to push a harmful agenda within the Trump administration which have taken away government’s ability to protect people of color, young workers and children from pollutants in our air and water and predatory economic practices which continue to hold them in poverty,” said Carmel Pryor, senior director of communications at Alliance for Youth Action, in an interview with The Hill.