President-elect Joe BidenJoe BidenJudge throws out GOP lawsuit to close Georgia ballot drop boxes after business hours First responders serenade Fauci with ‘happy birthday’ Joe Biden can be the president for middle class workers and all races MORE is poised to start his presidency amid simmering tensions with progressives who want his administration to work as little as possible with K Street.
Progressives applauded Biden during the campaign for refusing to take donations from lobbyists, but his administration is unlikely to refuse working with lobbyists if they can help advance key policy goals.
To the frustration of many on the left, Biden has already tapped lobbyists like Steve RicchettiSteve RicchettiBiden forms team of insiders Biden’s chief of staff Reed to leave MORE and Tom VilsackTom VilsackUSDA: Farm-to-school programs help schools serve healthier meals OVERNIGHT MONEY: House poised to pass debt-ceiling bill MORE for top posts in his administration.
Now, progressive lawmakers and groups are pushing for an ethics pledge similar to the executive order from former President Obama that put restrictions on former lobbyists working in the White House.
Sens. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenWarren and other senators seek investigation into Trump administration resuming federal executions Biden taps former Warren aide for economic team Biden assembles team to enact ambitious climate agenda MORE (D-Mass.), Ed MarkeyEd MarkeyWarren and other senators seek investigation into Trump administration resuming federal executions Kennedy gives farewell speech from House months after losing primary MSNBC’s Ruhle challenges Sanders on push for ,200 stimulus checks MORE (D-Mass.) and Jeff MerkleyJeff MerkleyMSNBC’s Ruhle challenges Sanders on push for ,200 stimulus checks Democratic senators push for ,200 direct payments in new coronavirus relief package Sanders presses Schumer on ,200 payments, bigger COVID-19 relief bill MORE (D-Ore.) wrote to Biden this week seeking an ethics pledge that includes a total ban on lobbyists employed by corporations from serving in the administration and requiring more extensive public reporting of all lobbying activity directed toward the White House.
“We strongly support your commitment to demonstrate with your actions – not just your words – that public servants in the Biden-Harris administration will serve all Americans, not just themselves or narrow special interests,” the lawmakers wrote.
Biden has not spelled out the specifics of a forthcoming pledge but has said it will improve on the Obama administration pledge and “address not only the improper influence of lobbyists, but also any improper or inappropriate influence from personal, financial, and other interests,” according to his website.
Doug Pinkham, president of the Public Affairs Council, warned against imposing blanket bans from Day One to appease one faction of the party.
“If you start from the beginning and make rules for yourself that can hamper you — to say, ‘I’m not going to talk to this group or that group, I’m not going to let people like this be involved in the conversation’ — it might score you a few points with the most strident opponents of lobbying or corporate involvement in politics, but at the end of the day, you’re going to be measured by your success,” Pinkham said.
Since before the election, progressive groups have urged Biden to not hire any lobbyists. In October, lawmakers like Democratic Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-Cortez DeWine says Ohio teachers, school staff to be next group to receive COVID-19 vaccine Schumer on Trump’s call for K in direct payments: ‘I’m in’ Progressive Democrats signal support for Trump’s higher direct payment request MORE (N.Y.) and Katie Porter (Calif.) called on Senate leadership to oppose the confirmation of any nominee to an executive branch position who is a lobbyist or former lobbyist who had a corporate client.
Ricchetti, who will be counsel to Biden, previously co-owned a lobbying firm with his brother. Vilsack, who is Biden’s pick for Agriculture secretary, is president of the U.S. Dairy Export Council, a major industry lobbying group, and previously worked as a registered lobbyist for the law firm Dorsey & Whitney.
But instead of blasting Biden for those picks, many progressives have held their fire and instead focused on their calls for a strong policy going forward.
Issue One, which pushes for campaign finance reform, said it wants to see firm and transparent lobbying rules from the Biden administration.
“Our take at Issue One is while we don’t want the administration to be full of lobbyists, we want strict rules preventing the revolving door,” said Danielle Caputo, legislative and programs counsel. “But we also understand that corporations make up our economy and they should have a seat at the table.”
“Having a purity test, just generally speaking, is not helpful,” Caputo said. She said it’s…