President-elect Joe Biden’s decision to head the Bureau of Administration and Budget has been a political insider for more than a decade, and the alliances she has forged as an influential leader within the Democratic Party could be scrutinized during her verification process be taken – from both sides of the corridor.
Tanden, the 50-year-old daughter of immigrants from India, would be the first black woman to head OMB if confirmed.
Since 2011, Neera Tanden has been CEO of the Center for American Progress, a Washington-based liberal think tank, and its political arm, the Center for American Progress Action Fund. The nonprofit was originally founded by John Podesta, chairman of Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign.
The review of Tanden’s record has already focused on her Twitter posts critical of President Donald Trump and Republican lawmakers, as well as her clashes with Senator Bernie Sanders and his progressive allies. Many of these progressives have pointed to her ties to corporate and establishment leaders as one reason she should not be part of Biden’s cabinet.
Tanden criticized Sanders in March for failing to abandon the Democratic race after Biden took major victories on Super Tuesday and the coronavirus found its way to the United States.
“You know who could have stopped elementary school? Sanders! Biden is already the winner of plurality, which was Sanders’ standard. He could have stopped, but instead pushed people to vote,” Tanden tweeted in response at the time an apparent question of Sander’s followers. “That put people at risk a lot more than my tweeted question.” However, she tweeted repeatedly about support for Sanders.
Before serving as CEO of CAP, she advised Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama in the 2008 election. She was an advisor to Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of Health and Human Services for the Obama administration, and later played an advisory role for Clinton during her campaign against Trump in 2016.
If the Democrats fail to score major victories in the U.S. Senate runoff in Georgia on Jan. 5, Tanden’s confirmation won’t be a slam dunk. Even if the Democrats take over the majority, they could still face tough questions. Numerous Republican senators have already spoken out against their election to lead the OMB.
Nonetheless, as the potential OMB boss, Tanden will be responsible for preparing the administration’s budget and presenting it to Congress. The agency, as former government adviser to Ronald Reagan, Bill Kristol, tweeted, is “where the ill-considered projects of cabinet secretaries die, where programs are evaluated, where compromises are made”.
Over the years in Washington, Tanden and her nonprofit have built strong relationships with business people and political leaders. According to one briefed on the matter, she intends to continue serving as President and Executive Director of the GAP during the verification process.
“She’s smart as a whip and knows the architecture of government cold,” Orin Kramer, founder of a hedge fund and board member of the CAP Action Fund, told CNBC in a recent interview.
Under tanden, the center and its political arm have raised millions of people with connections to Wall Street and Silicon Valley.
In an email dated February 2016, Tanden informed CAP’s board of directors that they would recommend Jonathan Lavine, Co-Managing Partner at Investment Juggernaut Bain Capital, to join the board.
“Jonathan is a longtime donor to the GAP, but he’s keen to become a significant investor. He has also supported Media Matters and other progressive organizations,” Tanden wrote at the time. “Given his stellar career, philanthropy and work for progressive causes, I believe he would make an excellent addition to the board,” she said.
Lavine’s Foundation donated at least $ 1 million to the foundation last year. The GAP publishes its donors on its website.
A spokesman for CAP and Tanden has not returned requests for comment on this story.
Senator Mitt Romney, R-Utah, co-founded Bain. During Romney’s failed 2012 election against Obama, Tanden appeared to target the company.
The GAP’s 990 tax returns show Lavine was on the board in 2018 but not in 2019.
Eric Mindich, a longtime hedge fund manager, has been listed as a member of the Board of Directors since the last tax return for 2019.
Others who gave a lot to the organization last year are Mindich and his wife; Stewart Bainum Jr., chairman of Choice Hotels International, a foundation with ties to the late co-CEOs of Golden West Financial Corp .; and former Goldman Sachs manager Lawrence Linden. Others are big finance companies like BlackRock, Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, and Bank of America. Facebook gave $ 100,000 to $ 499,999 last year, the website said.
Another GAP board member from the financial community is Donald Sussman, a Democratic megadonor and hedge fund manager. His daughter Emily Sussman received over $ 60,000 in 2018 as “campaign manager”, according to the then 990 return.
Despite the CAP’s loyalty to the business community, Tanden has at times pushed back on Hillary Clinton’s critics targeting the former secretary of state’s involvement with finance companies. The CAP previously advocated a financial transaction tax, among other things, in order to close the loophole in carried over interest and to change antitrust policy and enforcement.
The Center for American Progress Action Fund, the political arm of the CAP, has stepped up its efforts over the past year to advance what it says on its return to “shape national political debate and turn progressive concepts into politics.”
The GAP donated over $ 8 million to the Action Fund in 2019, almost twice as much as the previous year. CAP Action doubled its fundraiser last year to $ 16 million, and over $ 8 million went in part to the now-defunct news organization ThinkProgress.
CAP Action’s cash injection into ThinkProgress came the same year the news agency closed. The Daily Beast reported at the time that ThinkProgress was in the midst of a $ 3 million gap between income and expenses.
It also came during the Democratic President’s primaries and while the GAP action continued to target Trump.
CAP and the news agency were checked for the release of a video targeting Sanders earlier this year. Tanden at the time insisted that the newsgroup be editorially independent of CAP and CAP Action, calling the video “overly harsh”.
Many of Sanders’ top lieutenants from his 2016 and 2020 presidential campaigns have publicly blamed Tanden for such attacks. They have spoken out loudly against their selection as OMB boss since it was announced on Monday.
Tanden’s support for lawmakers shaking off deficits when considering a coronavirus aide has led some progressive Democrats to rally behind their pick.
Adam Green, whose Progressive Change Campaign Committee backed Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s presidential bid, told CNBC that Tanden’s setback on deficits governing how coronavirus stimuli should be used is positive for progressives.
“Different people have different perspectives on Neera Tanden. I see your selection as a bigger signal from Joe Biden that he disapproves of corporate democrats who would sound like Paul Ryan if they used the austerity benchmark to cut programs during a pandemic. Instead, him wants the government to help the people, “Green said in a recent interview.
Warren responded positively to a tweet of support from Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio on Monday.
In a statement posted on the Center’s Budget and Policy Priorities website in March, Tanden and other co-authors argued that deficits should not be taken into account when deciding on coronavirus stimulus plans.
“Given the scale of the crisis, now is not the time for policy makers to worry about increasing deficits and debt when considering what steps to take,” they wrote in March at the start of the pandemic. A co-author was Heather Boushey, who was selected as a member of the Biden Council for Economic Advisors.
Tanden has mocked so-called Republican deficit hawks in the past, especially when Trump increased government spending. The Federal Responsible Budget Committee said in February that federal spending rose by $ 800 billion.
Tanden once tweeted that she idolized Sylvia Mathews Burwell, who was Obama’s second term director of OMB and who supported the Affordable Care Act and other moderate democratic priorities. Her previous praise for Burwell could be a sign that she will lead the agency in a similar fashion.