Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Biden Moves on to Economic Hires

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Fauci warns of a surge “superimposed” on the one we’re already in, while Biden’s foreign policy team faces a test on ethics. It’s Monday, and this is your politics tip sheet. Sign up here to get On Politics in your inbox every weekday.

Biden’s newly unveiled foreign policy team represents an attempt to restore a pre-Trump world order, after four years of an administration that has flouted ethics protocols while undermining American allegiances abroad.

But as our reporters Eric Lipton and Kenneth P. Vogel write in a new investigation, it also presents the incoming president with an early test of his own on the ethics and transparency front.

A number of his choices for top government positions have served at two major private companies, a consulting firm and an investment fund, creating the potential for a revolving door between public and private work, and setting the table for demands that incoming officials reveal the identities of past clients.

The founders of the consulting company, WestExec Advisors, include Antony Blinken, Biden’s choice for secretary of state, and Michèle Flournoy, who is considered a top contender to be his defense secretary. A number of other officials slated to become part of the Biden administration did work for WestExec, including Psaki and Avril Haines, whom Biden has named as his pick for director of national intelligence.

People familiar with the matter told Eric and Ken that WestExec’s clients have included Shield AI, a company that makes surveillance drones and recently signed a multimillion-dollar contract with the Air Force.

Blinken and Flournoy have also served as advisers to Pine Island Capital Partners, which invests hundreds of millions of dollars in military and aerospace companies, among other targets in the defense industry.

Flournoy has also made over $400,000 in the past two years as a board member for the firm Booz Allen Hamilton, which has billions of dollars in federal contracts, including a deal signed in 2018 for cybersecurity services to six federal agencies. Flournoy has been a particular target of criticism from progressives for her ties to the defense industry.

Another person said to be under consideration for the defense secretary position, the retired Army general Lloyd Austin, has also worked with Pine Island.

Republicans are already indicating that they plan to focus on WestExec in confirmation hearings for Blinken and other nominees.

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