President Biden’s pick of racial justice and defund-the-police activist Kiran Ahuja to run the Office of Personnel Management is poised to advance Wednesday toward a vote by the full Senate, all but guaranteeing confirmation of another in a series of liberal activists chosen for high-ranking administration jobs.
The nomination for OPM, which oversees the federal government’s roughly 2.1 million civilian employees, coincides with the White House pledging that the agency will be the vanguard of its “diversity, equity and inclusion” agenda.
Ms. Ahuja most recently served as the chief executive officer of Philanthropy Northwest, a network of charities bankrolled by top U.S. companies that promotes liberal policies that have included defunding the police. Philanthropy Northwest also oversees a fund that pays bail for people arrested during the widespread racial justice protests that began in 2020.
Ms. Ahuja, who was chief of staff for OPM during the Obama administration, has praised civil unrest in U.S. cities as a means “of finally coming to terms with our racist history as a country.”
She also led Philanthropy Northwest while it promoted the racism-retribution agenda of academics such Ibram X. Kendi, who created an educational precept known as critical race theory that holds that White people are inherently racist and retain economic and political power by oppressing people of color.
Last June, Ms. Ahuja wrote about creating an “anti-racist future” and the “daily trials of White supremacy.”
“How will we work to not only acknowledge the life and the future of the Black community, the Indigenous community, Black immigrants, Black queer and trans people, Black women; but also to affirm it so that they are free from the daily trials of White supremacy?” she wrote.
Despite opposition from conservatives, Ms. Ahuja appeared to have enough support from Senate Democrats and possible some Senate Republicans to win confirmation.
Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio, the top Republican on the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, signaled tentative satisfaction with Ms. Ahuja after getting her to commit to work to improve cyber at the agency and that federal workers assigned to the crisis of migrants and unaccompanied children at the southern border are qualified for their jobs.
Other activists nominated by Mr. Biden include:
• Tucson Police Chief Chris Magnus, who is best known for his advocacy for racial justice and migrant rights, for commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
• David Chipman, a former agent at Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives who is best known as one of the nation’s leading gun-control advocates, to run the ATF.
• Kristen Clarke, who strongly advocated for defunding the police, to lead the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.
If confirmed, Ms. Ahuja would be the first South Asian and first Asian American woman to lead OPM, a status touted by the White House in announcing her nomination in February.
“I believe people are and should be at the center of all policy decisions,” Ms. Ahuja said at her confirmation hearing last week before the Senate committee. “OPM will need to innovate to meet the modern needs of agencies with respect to recruitment, hiring, retention, engagement and performance management.”
At the hearing, Sen. Josh Hawley, Missouri Republican, pressed Ms. Ahuja on whether the administration was trying to impose liberal ideology upon the federal bureaucracy and divide the federal workforce along racial lines.
He cited Mr. Biden’s order on his first day in office that restore workplace diversity training that former President Trump attempted to ban. The training includes workshops and seminars that, among other sensitivity lessons, label White people and heterosexuals as “oppressors.”
Mr. Hawley said that at the training sessions, federal employees were told “virtually all White people contribute to racism” and employees were required to say that they “benefit from racism.”
“This along with other ideas I think are deeply divisive, amount to left-wing indoctrination, and really are an attempt to divide the American people, in this case, federal employees, along the lines of race,” Mr. Hawley said.
Ms. Ahuja said that she was not familiar with that specific training course and that she did not develop it during her previous stint at OPM.
Ms. Ahuja’s fans have touted her performance at OPM under President Obama and her work at the agency as part of Mr. Biden’s transition team.
“I can personally attest to her deep appreciation for the critical role this agency plays in powering a strong federal government and her commitment to empowering the OPM workforce with the tools and support it needs to deliver on its important work,” said acting OPM Director Kathleen McGettigan.
Beth Colbert, an acting director for two years in the Obama administration, said Ms. Ahuja would be “outstanding” as the leader of OPM.
In 2019, Philanthropy Northwest received roughly 20% of its $8.7 million budget from government grants and corporate donations including from Bank of America, Boeing, JP Morgan Chase and Microsoft, according to its annual report. Among the group’s dues-paying members is Arabella Advisors, a consulting outfit founded by former Clinton administration officials that runs four funds steering hundreds of millions in contributions largely to left-leaning groups.
Shortly before Ms. Ahuja joined OPM in 2015, the agency was hit by one of the worst cyberattacks in U.S. history. In a hack attributed to Chinese Communists, personal data on millions of current and former federal employees was stolen. The Obama administration sought to downplay the breach, which critics at the time labeled a “cyber Pearl Harbor.”