On January 20, the very day he was inaugurated as President of the United States, Joe Biden issued an executive order on “Ethics Commitments by Executive Branch Personnel” in which he committed new appointees in every executive agency to take an ethics pledge. That pledge promised, “I will not for a period of 2 years from the date of my appointment participate in any particular matter involving specific parties that is directly and substantially related to my former employer or former clients, including regulations and contracts,” and “I will not for a period of 2 years from the date of my appointment participate in any particular matter involving specific parties that is directly and substantially related to my former employer or former clients, including regulations and contracts.”
Yet Biden and his administration, which are heavily connected to labor unions across the country, granted waivers to two former union officials, claiming that the waivers were “in the public interest,” a phrase used in the executive order to give Biden the rationale for circumventing the aforementioned pledges by the prospective appointee.
The executive order states that a waiver may be granted by the Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), in consultation with the Counsel to the President, if it is determined “that the literal application of the restriction is inconsistent with the purposes of the restriction; or that it is in the public interest to grant the waiver.”
In March, the Biden administration granted a waiver to Alethea Predeoux to become a senior official in the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), as Axios reported. Predeoux had previously served as a chief lobbyist for the American Federation of Government Employees, which represents 700,000 federal workers. On March 15, OPM’s general counsel Lynn Eisenberg issued a memo stating, “Ms. Predeoux has been a registered lobbyist for AFGE for six years. Prior to joining AFGE, she served for approximately five years as a registered lobbyist for Paralyzed Veterans of America. While she has lobbied the Hill on OPM-related issues, she has not directly lobbied OPM,” the Daily Mail noted.
In late April, OMB issued a waiver for Celeste Drake, who had previously served as Executive in Charge of Government Affairs at the Directors Guild of America as well as Trade and Globalization Specialist with the AFL-CIO, the largest federation of unions in the United States.
OMB general counsel Samuel Nagenstos wrote:
I have determined that this waiver is necessary and that it is in the public interest to enable you to effectively carry out your duties as the Director of the Made in America office at the Office of Management and Budget. … Managing an ongoing recusal for you would significantly and negatively affect several of OMB’s important missions. The successful accomplishment of the mission of the newly created Made in America Office relies on extensive, open, and collaborative communications within OMB, between OMB and other parts of the Executive and Legislative Branches of the U.S. Government, and between OMB and non-governmental entities including labor organizations.
Alfredo Ortiz, president of the Job Creators Network, told Axios, “It’s no surprise that President Biden’s union boss appointments have resulted in anti-worker policies like the PRO Act and the $15 minimum wage.” Katharine Cooksey, the spokeswoman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee, told Fox News, “The pattern of corruption between Democrats and big union bosses is obvious – just follow the money and follow the staff.” she said.
Axios noted, “Biden has drawn extensively from union ranks to staff his transition and administration while touting the importance of organized labor to his agenda and the country generally. Labor leaders enjoyed posts on the transition beachhead teams for most major federal agencies. Biden then tapped former union officials for senior posts in agencies including the Labor Department, the Education Department, the Department of Homeland Security and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.”
Just before he left office, former President Donald Trump revoked his 2017 executive order that stated that “Every appointee in every executive agency appointed on or after January 20, 2017” should commit to a pledge stating, “I will not, within 5 years after the termination of my employment as an appointee in any executive agency in which I am appointed to serve, engage in lobbying activities with respect to that agency.”
Roll Call noted, “He isn’t the only president to try to ease restrictions on his former staffers’ post-government job options. On his way out of the presidency, Bill Clinton took a similar move of revoking his own executive order barring his aides from lobbying for five years.”
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