Ron Klain, an engineer of Bill Clinton’s 1994 crime bill and chief of staff for Vice President Joe Biden during the Obama administration, has been chosen by President-elect Biden to be his White House chief of staff.
A lawyer and 35-year-plus Biden confidante, Klain has been a vocal critic of how President Trump handled the coronavirus. In the weeks before the pandemic began disrupting U.S. life, Klain warned that the outbreak would require an aggressive federal response, Stat News reported.
Biden described Klain as an “invaluable” adviser, especially noting the work they did together during the 2009 economic crisis and the 2014 Ebola outbreak during Obama’s second term.
Biden and Klain first worked together in 1989, when the president-elect was a senator and Klain was a recent Harvard Law School graduate, New York Times reported.
Known as the “Ebola czar” under Obama, Klain’s appointment puts a pandemic-response veteran at the highest levels of government. A video of Klain lecturing Trump about the pandemic was widely circulated during the Biden campaign.
Appointed by Biden, Klain was chief counsel for the Senate Judiciary Committee from July 1989 to July 1992. In this role, he directed the committee’s professional staff in its work against crime, on matters of constitutional law, drug policy and major judicial nominations.
He advised U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno, who served from 1993 to 2001, on legal and policy matters, coordinating the administration-wide effort to craft and win passage of the Clinton Crime Bill and the ban on semi-automatic assault weapons, according to Clinton White House archives.
As Clinton’s chief adviser on criminal justice issues, it was Klain who thought up the 100,000 new cops initiative, Ruth Shalit reported for The New Republic in July 1994.
“Clinton had a big crime speech coming up,” John Kroger, the campaign’s deputy issues director, told The New Republic in 1994. “We had no idea how many extra cops would be a good thing. (Domestic Policy Deputy) Bruce Reed and I called Ron from Little Rock. He said, ‘Would 100,000 be enough?’”
The 1994 Crime Bill aka the Clinton Crime Bill aka the Biden Crime Law was the largest crime bill in U.S. history. It provided for 100,000 new police officers, $9.7 billion in funding for prisons and $6.1 billion in funding for prevention programs, designed with significant input from experienced police officers.
The bill disproportionately targeted African Americans with mass incarceration and exacerbated racial inequality in the U.S. justice system. Its effects are still felt today. Black Americans represent 13 percent of the U.S population but account for 40 percent of the incarcerated population, according to PrisonPolicy.org.
Clinton later apologized for the crime bill, saying in 2015 that it made mass incarceration worse. “Too many laws were overly broad instead of appropriately tailored,” Clinton said.
“Biden’s new chief of staff, Ron Klain, was one of the primary crime bill ‘engineers,'” The Moguldom Nation Jamarlin Martin tweeted. “He was right there when the POLICE wrote the bill. Klain knows where ‘all the bodies are buried,’ have to keep him close.”
Klain resigned as Biden’s chief of staff in 2011 to join Revolution, the venture capital firm founded by former AOL founder and CEO Steve Case, New York Times reported.
He was appointed in 2016 to the executive council of TechNet, the trade group that lobbies for Silicon Valley’s interests in Washington, D.C.
TechNet is a network of tech CEOs and senior executives that claims to be “the voice of the innovation economy,” fostering a climate of innovation and competition. The organization says it advances public policies and private-sector initiatives at the federal, state, and local levels “that make the U.S. the world leader in innovation.”
From 1996 to 2020, TechNet contributed $1.261 million to the Democrat and Republican parties, according to OpenSecrets Center For Responsive Politics.
Klain’s appointment could help tone down tensions between startups and the government under the Biden-Harris administration, TechCrunch reported. Biden has been vocal about pursuing aggressive regulation on big tech, which could impact Google, Apple and Facebook. Klain spoke to TechCrunch about how regulatory hurdles could hinder startup innovation.
Klain helped lead efforts for Higher Ground Labs, an incubator for politically-focused Democrat startups.
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