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A Cabinet That Looks Like (Corporate) America

by Bill MeslerSpecial to CorpWatch

Bill Clinton once famously vowed to create a “cabinet that looks like America.” George Bush has created a cabinet that looks like Corporate America. In the past, the term revolving door referred to government officials leaving office to work for the very corporations they had regulated. Increasingly, the highest of government officials arrive directly from the executive offices of powerful corporations. Lobbyists are appointed to the jobs whose occupants they once vied to influence. Those who regulate and those supposed to be regulated have become almost indistinguishable.

Here are a few egregious examples:
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Andrew Card, Chief of Staff
A former chief lobbyist for General Motors and CEO of the American Automobile Manufacturers Association, Card led the industry’s $25 million campaign against tighter fuel emission standards, as well as its fight against the Kyoto Protocol. When Card got his new job with the administration, General Motors threw him a lavish ascension party on the roof of the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. Two months after taking office, the Bush administration withdrew from Kyoto. Nearly four years later, fuel emission standards remain unchanged.

Gale Norton, Secretary of the Interior
The nation’s foremost custodian of parks, beaches and public lands is a former oil lobbyist. Her clients included Delta Petroleum, an oil-interest, and NL Industries, which was being sued over childhood lead-paint exposure. She also headed the Coalition of Republican Environmental Advocates, funded by Ford Motor Company and BP Amaco. The group advocated abolishing the Endangered Species Act. Under Norton, the EPA stripped the Bureau of Land Management of power to block mining operations that are environmentally unsound or damage on Native American cultural sites.

Elaine Chao, Secretary of Labor
A former director of five different companies, including Dole Food and Clorox, and an executive at Bank of America, Chao used to work for the Heritage Foundation where she helped the think tank denounce affirmative action. She was a Bush “Pioneer” in 2000, bundling over $100,000 Under Chao, the Labor Department reversed OSHA rules protecting workers from repetitive stress and tried to get Congress to eliminate overtime protection for millions of workers,

Condoleza Rice, National Security Adviser

Rice sat on the boards of broker Charles Schwab, insurance giant Transamerica Corp., and Chevron, where her name now graces a 130,000-ton oil tanker.

Donald Evans, Secretary of Commerce
One of a plethora of cabinet officials with ties to the oil industry, Evans was chair and CEO of energy giant Tom Brown Inc. and a Bush Pioneer in 2000.

Steven Griles, Deputy Secretary of The Interior

Griles is a former coal industry executive and lobbyist for the American Petroleum Institute, the National Mining Association and the Sunoco oil company, among others. Griles was involved in a well-publicized scandal when he tried to insert himself in an EPA dispute over natural gas extraction from coal beds in the Powder River Basin in Wyoming.

Ann M. Veneman, Secretary of Agriculture
Veneman was a director at Calgene, creators of the Flavr Savr tomato, the first genetically modified food sold in supermarkets. Calgene became part of Monsanto, which later became part of Pharmica. With Veneman on board, the Bush administration has pushed to open up foreign markets to genetically modified foods.

James Connaughton, Chairman of the Council on Environmental Quality
Bush’s top environmental advisor is not only a former lobbyist for ARCO (Atlantic Richfield Company), Alcoa and General Electric, he also worked for the powerful Chemical Manufacturers Association, the powerful trade association representing some of America’s top polluters. With Connaughton in the administration, the chemical industry has pulled off one of the most remarkable feats of corporate influence in recent history: despite an EPA warning that a terrorist strike on any of 123 of the nation’s most dangerous chemical plants could kill or injure more than a million people, a bill tightening security among the plants has never even come to a vote on the Senate floor.

Mark Rey, Undesecretary for Natural Resources and Agriculture at the Dept. of Agriculture
Rey lobbied for timber industry groups like the American Forest and Paper Association and the National Forest Products Association. The industry was pleased when the Bush Administration pushed the so-called “Healthy Forests Initiative,” increasing logging in 11 national forests in the Sierra Nevada, and by new rules limiting public comment and litigation opportunities on logging issues.

Jeffrey Holmstead, Director of the EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation
A former attorney at Latham & Watkins, Holmstead represented the Chemical Manufacturers Association in air toxics litigation. He has since helped write new regulations scaling back the Clean Air Act.