Liberal lawmakers are mad that the Biden administration has relied heavily on employees with Big Tech credentials to inform its decision-making, revealing new tension between the Democratic administration and its left-wing allies who prefer a more confrontational policy approach.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Massachusetts Democrat, and Rep. Pramila Jayapal, Washington Democrat, criticized the administration’s close relationship with the tech sector on Thursday in a letter to Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo.
“The abundance of Big Tech alumni within the department raises concerns that the needs of consumers, workers and small businesses are ignored in favor of Big Tech’s profits and priorities,” the lawmakers wrote. “We request further information about the role of former Big Tech employees in digital trade policy, and the safeguards that the Commerce Department has in place to prevent corruption and ensure that corporate interests do not undermine the digital rights of global consumers, workers, and small businesses.”
The Democratic lawmakers expressed concern about administration workers who previously held jobs at places such as Amazon, Dropbox, Google and Facebook, all of which are the subject of federal regulatory scrutiny. The letter singles out Ms. Raimondo‘s staff, saying it includes people who previously worked at Amazon and Google.
The Commerce Department has reason to want technological expertise in its workforce: The department has 13 bureaus with a range of responsibilities, including administering regulations and policy affecting tech companies through the National Institute of Standards and Technology and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration.
The liberal lawmakers said they were working on making new law but criticized Ms. Raimondo for not taking action on her own.
“It is also your responsibility and within your power as Commerce secretary to raise ethical standards and crack down on corruption,” the lawmakers wrote. “It is disappointing that you have chosen not to do so.”
The intramural Democratic squabble comes as Ms. Warren and Ms. Raimondo have emerged as competitors for the future direction of their shared political party. In Ms. Warren‘s home state, the Boston Herald’s opinion section in May floated Ms. Raimondo, Rhode Island’s first female governor before joining Mr. Biden’s Cabinet, as a possible replacement for President Biden.
Other liberal-leaning publications have raised the prospect of championing Ms. Raimondo over the Massachusetts senator, too.
“When they close their eyes to imagine the perfect candidate, many Democrats likely picture someone resembling Elizabeth Warren or Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. In reality, the party’s future looks much more like Gina Raimondo,” wrote Washington Post columnist James Hohmann in January.
The Commerce Department did not immediately respond to the lawmakers’ criticisms.