Cornyn on Biden aides’ undisclosed ties: ‘The Senate is not obligated to confirm anyone who hides this information’
Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) said on Sunday that the Senate “is not obligated to confirm anyone” who has undisclosed ties, referencing aides to President-elect Joe Biden who are under consideration for Cabinet positions.
The Texas senator cited a New York Times article that suggested that Biden’s top allies’ connections to consulting and investment companies and secret clients could present ethical dilemmas.
He tweeted out a portion of the article that read, “Mr. Biden’s transition office stopped short of saying that all clients would be disclosed — and ethics rules allow incoming federal officials to withhold the identities of clients if the arrangements are subject to confidentiality agreements.”
Cornyn responded to this quote in a subsequent tweet saying, “Maybe, maybe not. But the Senate is not obligated to confirm anyone who hides this information.”
Maybe, maybe not. But the Senate is not obligated to confirm anyone who hides this information
— Senator John Cornyn (@JohnCornyn) November 29, 2020
The Times report notes that several members of Biden’s team are linked to consulting firm WestExec Advisors and the investment fund Pine Island Capital Partners. The newspaper added that the connections will serve as the Biden administration’s “first test of transparency and ethics.”
Ethics experts told the Times that concerns about officials’ connections to the private sector do not end once they cut their ties with the firms and clients.
Biden’s pick to be secretary of State pick, Anthony Blinken, and one of his possible Defense secretary options, Michèle Flournoy, are among those linked to WestExec and Pine Island Capital.
Progressives and government watchdogs are calling for transparency from Biden’s team, including the disclosure of all financial relationships and clients, divestment of ownership stakes and assurance that aides will recuse themselves from decisions involving their prior business partners. Republicans also plan to pursue the ethics angle in confirmation hearings.
Biden spokesman Andrew Bates told the Times that those who were partners in WestExec and Pine Island would leave their firms if they have not already done so if confirmed and release “proper” client disclosures.
“Joe Biden has pledged the most ethically rigorous administration in American history, and every cabinet member will abide by strict ethics rules and abide by all disclosure requirements,” Bates said in a statement.
Blinken took a leave from Pine Island and WestExec in August when he joined Biden’s campaign in a full-time capacity. Biden’s transition office told the Times that Blinken was “obtaining permission” from his clients to identify them, but did not commit to all of them being released.
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