Commerce Secretary Raimondo meets with one business executive a day

In her first seven months as Commerce Secretary, Gina Raimondo met or spoke in front of 230 CEOs, senior executives or industry trade groups, averaging more than one meeting a day, according to calendar newspapers recently. published in the context of freedom of information. Request for deed.

The list includes six meetings with Apple CEO Tim Cook, three with Amazon CEO Andy Jassy, ​​three with Microsoft VP Brad Smith (and two with company CEO Satya). Nadella), two with Google/Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai, and one with Facebook. former COO Sheryl Sandberg. Besides these heavyweights, Raimondo has met other executives from tech companies like Airbnb, Lyft, PayPal, eBay, Salesforce, IBM, Rakuten, etc. There are three Cook meetings with Raimondo just between August 25 and September 30, 2021.

Some of Raimondo’s meetings with tech industry leaders were reported previouslyupon release this summer of the March and April 2021 calendars. But the assignments with American companies go far beyond technology, affecting defense contractors, financial institutions, airlines, pharmaceutical companies , car manufacturers, etc.

Between March and September 2021, Raimondo spoke at board meetings and forums for the United States Chamber of Commerce, US Travel Association, Association of Equipment Manufacturers, Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, National Association of Home Builders, Autos Drive America, Payments Leadership Council, American Hotel & Lodging Association, US Lumber Coalition, National Council of Textile Organizations, Alliance of CEOs of World Economic Forum, the Motion Picture Association of America and the Business Roundtable.

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On a calendar day, September 2, 2021, Raimondo held a Zoom meeting with Blackstone President and COO Jonathan Gray; a call with BlackRock Chairman and CEO Larry Fink; a Zoom meeting with Raytheon CEO Greg Hayes; a call with Rob Hale, CEO of Granite Telecom; a virtual meeting with Boston Scientific President and CEO Mike Mahoney; and a virtual meeting with the leadership of the Motor & Equipment Manufacturers Association.

Almost none of the meetings with business leaders were publicly disclosed before the schedules were released, except for meetings attended by President Biden.

In a statement, a spokesperson for the Commerce Department said, “As Secretary of Commerce, Secretary Raimondo’s job is to engage with a wide range of industries, workers, environmental groups, members of Congress and other stakeholders to advance President Biden’s priorities and hear from diverse perspectives. on a number of issues. But while members of Congress appear in the calendar newspapers, and other stakeholders more sparingly, the preponderance of business leaders is glaring.

Advocacy organizations that have requested information on Raimondo’s timing have expressed his frustration the Commerce Department’s reluctance to release it. Other government officials, such as Jerome Powell, Chairman of the Federal Reserve and Gary Gensler, Chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, regularly publish their calendars. Even the defenders complained to members of Congress on the Commerce Department’s lack of transparency.

Even now, after five months of releases over the past two weeks, the timelines only go to September 2021, leaving more than a year of Raimondo’s activities unavailable for public scrutiny.

RAIMONDO SWORN as the nation’s 40th Secretary of Commerce on March 3, 2021; meetings with business leaders began within days. Raimondo’s close relationship with the business world has fire shot leftist, especially when there was speculation that she would become the next Treasury Secretary if Janet Yellen resigned. That conversation has cooled off, as Raimondo’s portfolio at Commerce has grown. She controls $100 billion in funds for semiconductor manufacturing and broadband development, through various new laws. President Biden has leaned heavily on Raimondo, a close confidant, to lead his administration’s industrial policy.

“Secretary Raimondo is proud of her work to rally business and labor around key elements of the President’s agenda, including the Bipartisan Infrastructure Act and the CHIPS Act, which will revitalize American manufacturing for decades to come,” said the Commerce Department. said the spokesperson. “Going forward, Secretary Raimondo looks forward to engaging business leaders to generate additional support for key priorities of the Biden administration, including expanded access to affordable child care, which that would allow millions more American women to participate in the workforce.”

It is true that the role of Commerce Secretary requires at least some understanding of business interests. But what emerges from reading the newspapers is the breadth of discussions with CEOs of companies across industries, inside and outside of Raimondo’s sphere of influence. “In law, the Commerce Department runs a bunch of disparate and wonky sub-agencies with issues of interest to the country,” said Jeff Hauser, executive director of the Revolving Door Project, one of the organizations that researched Raimondo’s calendar journals. “The popular conscience is that Commerce is the Cabinet official who sucks American business.”

For example, given the importance of the CHIPS Act, which earmarks $52 billion for local semiconductor manufacturing, and Raimondo’s role as the administrative point of contact on this legislation, it is to be expected that she had persistent contacts with the heads of semiconductor companies like Intel, TSMC, GlobalFoundries, AMD, Micron, Texas Instruments, Qualcomm and others. (Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger appears on Raimondo’s calendar eight times during this period, the most of any company executive.) Automakers need computer chips and partner with manufacturers of semiconductors. on the schedule.

Similarly, Raimondo’s control of bipartisan infrastructure law broadband construction funds is no doubt why telecom officials like AT&T, Charter Communications, Comcast and Verizon are on the agenda.

But Raimondo doesn’t have a particular healthcare portfolio, but the CEOs of Amgen, Eli Lilly, Medtronic, CVS, Pfizer and Merck appear on the calendars. There is no specific portfolio on defense policy, but Raimondo has spoken to the CEO of Raytheon twice, the CEO of Boeing twice, the CEO of Lockheed Martin three times, and the CEO of General Dynamics once. Despite the lack of a specific policy role for trade in the financial sector, the calendar is littered with discussions with executives from banks and investment firms, including Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Citi, BlackRock, Blackstone , Visa, Mastercard, American Express, Warburg Pincus and Bloomberg LP. Travel agencies like Hilton and Carnival Cruise Line are popping up. Old-line manufacturers like 3M and Johnson Controls have secured audience with Raimondo.

Much of this may be related to Raimondo’s role in trade policy, where pharmaceutical patents, access to financial services markets, funding international deals for large items (like Boeing planes) and other issues are important. Raimondo leads the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF), a pseudo-trade deal designed to maintain US dominance in Asia. The US Patent and Trademark Office is also part of the Commerce Department, which could explain the discussions with the CEO of the pharmaceutical company.

Technological concerns are also paramount in global trade, especially with IPEF. Raimondo got in trouble with Big Tech critics in criticize proposed European Union regulations which would target American technology companies. Raimondo made the comments in December 2021, after the numerous meetings with tech CEOs chronicled in the calendar newspapers.

But even if Raimondo has a valid reason for some of these meetings, the general corporate bias is undeniable. The interests of some of the Commerce Department’s sub-agencies are generally not considered in Raimondo’s schedules. For example, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is a scientific agency that explores and monitors weather patterns, but Raimondo has not taken any meetings with climatologists or climatologists, according to a review of the newspapers. She did, however, meet Darren Woods, CEO of ExxonMobil, on May 10, 2021. The Census Bureau is also part of Commerce, but meetings with economists or demographers are rare.

Finally, Raimondo gave little time to those involved in business outside of the C-suite. There are virtually no entries in Raimondo’s schedule of meetings with union leaders or public interest groups.

“Anytime you have a manager, whether he’s president, senator, or governor, you identify their priorities based on how they allocate their time, their most valuable resource,” Hauser said. “It’s not like the Commerce Secretary is ignoring corporate American preferences if she doesn’t meet with corporate CEOs.”

Maria Langholz, director of communications at Demand Progress, another organization that has researched Raimondo’s timelines, said in a statement, “This account of meetings with Big Tech and other executives confirms the concerns expressed by people like the Sen. Warren: Commerce should not act as the House of Commerce lobbyist – nor should it primarily serve as a forum for networking with potential donors for a future political campaign. Reference to Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) nods to her continuous interrogation Raimondo’s contacts with Big Tech and the hiring of former tech executives.

Full schedules are available at website from the Department of Commerce’s Office of Privacy and Open Government.

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