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- Author and journalist Linda McQuaig reminds us of Canada’s public lab that could have helped fight COVID-19.
- The economic case for saving regional public universities.
- The corporations supposedly managing Maryland’s Purple Line transit project have successfully strong-armed Maryland to kick in an additional $250 million to keep them from walking away from the public-private partnership.
1) National: In the latest edition of On the Record, AFSCME President Lee Saunders says the Georgia Senate runoffs are “an all hands on deck situation.” Saunders says “public service workers are being thanked for the sacrifices they’ve made with pink slips… But the balance of power in the Senate may be shifting. Victories for Jon Ossoff and the Rev. Raphael Warnock in Georgia’s two January runoff elections would create a pro-worker majority that will pass the urgent state and local aid we all need.”
State revenues have declined 0.8% in fiscal 2020, a recession is about to hit both blue and red states, and the outgoing Trump administration is allegedly “engaged in economic sabotage.” This poses a threat to public services and municipal debt. So Senate support for federal fiscal aid to states and municipalities will be crucial to reinforce the efforts of the Biden Treasury Department, which will likely be headed by Janet Yellen. The Bond Buyer says Yellen “has established herself as an ally to state and local governments seeking federal pandemic relief, and her background in labor economics leaves her well-positioned to quarterback President-elect Joe Biden’s infrastructure-heavy economic agenda.” [Sub required]
2) National: Is there an economic case for saving regional public universities? Economic professors Vivekanand Jayakumar and Brian Kench say yes there is. “While some institutions will inevitably fail (and the badly managed ones should in fact be allowed to merge or close), there is a need to save as many viable regional public universities and mid-tier private colleges as possible. From a broader economic standpoint, the failure and collapse of such institutions can have a devastating impact on already struggling local economies across the U.S. Many regional public universities and mid-tier private colleges are located in small towns and less-populated counties, where they typically act as an economic anchor.”
3) National/International: Mongabay’s podcast takes on the subject of indigenous land rights and the global push for land privatization. “To discuss Indigenous land rights and why they’re vital to meeting conservation goals around the world, we welcome to the podcast Daisee Francour, a member of the Oneida nation of Wisconsin in the United States and the director of strategic partnerships and communications for the NGO Cultural Survival. We also welcome onto the podcast Anuradha Mittal, the executive director of the Oakland Institute, a think tank based in California that recently released a report titled Driving Dispossession: The Global Push To Unlock The Economic Potential Of Land. Mittal explains how governments and corporations the world over are pushing for land to be put into ‘productive use’ as a means of economic development, and how that can dispossess Indigenous and local communities of their land without regard for the myriad benefits their land has for Indigenous cultures and livelihoods.” Support them on Patreon.
4) California: The state’s stem cell research agency, having been given a reprieve by California voters, is planning its future. “Now that it’s been given a new lease on life after the passage of Proposition 14, a statewide $5.5 billion ballot measure, California’s bond-funded stem cell research agency will re-write its budget.(…) When the six-member Citizen’s Financial Accountability Oversight Committee chaired by Yee met Friday, talk was about the future for stem cell research in the state.” [Sub required]
5) California: A public community college and a federal women’s correctional facility are teaming up to bring educational opportunities to inmates. “Las Positas Community College became one of three accredited colleges in the nation to be awarded a competitive grant this year through a Bureau of Prisons initiative to provide college courses for women offenders serving time in federal prison. The grant application anticipates enrollment between 12 to 15 inmate students per semester. Based on surveys of student inmates enrolled in a pilot program that offers noncredit business courses, participants overwhelmingly said they would be interested in continuing to receive instruction with a business emphasis, said Las Positas Vice President of Academic Services Kristina Whalen. ‘I think it’s a realization that employment post-incarceration is going to be very challenging,’ Whalen said.”
6) Illinois: Chicago’s public health workers have shifted gears to meet the pandemic and disinformation. “While many people haven’t been to their offices in months because of the coronavirus pandemic, working from home is not an option for many in the Chicago Department of Public Health. Yet, for Deeana Mendoza, Victoria Romero and Charlayne Guy, CDPH employees and members of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Council 31, their jobs have changed even more because of the pandemic than those who are currently working from home. (…) And although she cannot work from home, Mendoza said AFSCME has fought to ensure they can do their jobs safely, especially at COVID danger spots like nursing homes.”
7) New York: Expanded vote-by-mail may be going before voters as early as next fall. “A proposed constitutional amendment would do away with the rule limiting absentee voting to people who are ill, have a physical disability or will be out of town on Election Day. (…) The proposal has strong bipartisan support: In 2019 it passed 136-9 in the Assembly and 56-5 in the Senate. Supporters say the coronavirus pandemic has only generated more momentum.
If the amendment passes, it will be up to lawmakers to craft legislation improving a mail-voting system that was expanded in a hurry this year because of the pandemic, and has more than a few rough spots.”
8) Think Tanks: The Boston Review has an essay adapted from Chiara Cordelli’s new book on privatization—The Privatized State. Privatization and democracy take center stage. “The best way to secure constitutional clarity is to advance a new amendment that would constrain the privatization of public functions,” she concludes. “But even beyond the Constitution, we also need to strengthen the legitimacy of public administration itself. This will certainly involve a sharper distinction between office and contract—the distinction that, in practice, privatization so insidiously undoes—but it should also demand a tighter integration between the democratic and the bureaucratic, by including participatory elements and forms of co-determination in the daily administration of public affairs. Only through a democratized bureaucracy can we inoculate against the wrongs of the privatized state.”
10) Think Tanks: Songs for the Common Good is going strong. Donald Cohen of In the Public Interest tells us “the November 14 Zoom concert with Sol y Canto and Alisa Amador was fantastic. If you didn’t make it, here’s the video recording. And check out their latest album. The next concert, scheduled for Sunday, February 7, is by Karine Polwart all the way from Scotland. It’s a Sunday to accommodate times zones from Scotland to California. Karine has turned me on to great music and political projects from the UK. Check out her latest project (in this video) created in anticipation of next year’s climate summit in Glasgow. IT’S A MUST WATCH! IT WILL BLOW YOU AWAY.” Check out Donald’s postelection relief playlist.
11) National: Valerie Strauss of the Washington Post reminds us what Joe Biden promised about replacing Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. “Now that he is the one who is going to be president, there is high interest about his pick, who will lead the administration’s efforts to roll back DeVos’s agenda of pushing school choice and for-profit education. Biden’s choice will also signal how far he plans to deviate from the education policies of President Barack Obama, under whom he served for eight years as vice president.” Read Strauss’ article for the state of play on the selection.
Holding Biden’s feet to the fire, the Network for Public Education has put forth what they consider to be the top five guiding principles the incoming Biden administration should adopt if the president-elect wants to fulfill his “promised commitment to our nation’s public schools.”
12) National: Are applicant and employee biometric privacy rights secure with for-profit school bus companies? A proposed biometric privacy class action has been filed against First Student Inc. and the company is arguing for a change of venue. In the July 7 suit, a job applicant “accused the Cincinnati-based First Student of violating the privacy rights of its workers and job applicants by requiring them to scan their fingerprints for background checks on those applying for jobs with First Student. The class action asserts First Student did not comply with Illinois state notice and consent requirements, as spelled out in the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act.”
13) California: Four Los Angeles charter schools that were supposed to be closed under the state’s new charter school law have been allowed to remain open. “Superintendent Austin Beutner said during Tuesday’s meeting that in the midst of a pandemic with ‘families struggling to get by,’ the district shouldn’t seek to close any schools. ‘And therefore, on balance I believe the appropriate thing is to conditionally approve,’ he added.” LA School Report says “the schools—which will learn the district’s final decision Nov. 24 at an LAUSD school board meeting—are among 42 in Los Angeles and more than 230 throughout California up for renewal this year. Some districts have yet to hold hearings and school boards across the state will continue considering renewals, likely into 2021.”
14) Florida: A KIPP charter school company will get $23 million in bond financing through the city to build a charter school in Jacksonville. The Jacksonville Transportation Authority “built a First Coast Flyer bus stop at the site and declared the remainder of the vacant, 8-acre parcel as surplus property in June.” KIPP’s lease with JTA “has an initial 42-year term with a 40-year renewal option. The charter school organization has two campuses in Jacksonville: an elementary school at 2525 W. First St. and an elementary and middle school at 1440 McDuff Ave. N.”
15) Minnesota: Despite intense opposition, a St Paul charter school may get city bond financing for a new high school. “Following a sometimes impassioned discussion, the city council recently voted 5-2 to give preliminary approval to ‘conduit’ revenue bonds for two major construction projects involving ethnic charter schools on St. Paul’s East Side. In doing so, the council revived a long-simmering debate over the impact of charter schools on city coffers and the public school system. Jack Byers, executive director of the Payne-Phalen Community Council, has called it premature to greenlight a charter school expansion while a planned city study on the financial impact of charter school expansion is months away from completion. ‘It is concerning that the city … would consider making an investment on the East Side (whether through actual dollars or by extending its bonding authority) without making such a decision based on the knowledge and insights gained from such a study and community participation on that study,’ said Byers, in a Nov. 16 letter to the council.”
16) Ohio: The Ohio Education Association is urging Governor DeWine (R) to veto a school voucher bill that has reached his desk. The OEA says it is “deeply disappointed in the decision of lawmakers in the Ohio General Assembly last week to pass an amended version of Senate Bill 89 (SB 89) that removes positive aspects of the bill passed by the House and increases voucher eligibility beyond 2020-2021 levels.”
OEA President Scott DiMauro says “vouchers drain needed resources from the 90 percent of students who attend Ohio’s public schools. This drain forces too many communities into raising their property taxes, which then subsidize tuition for many students who never stepped foot in the public schools that are now financing their private school education. Diverting resources from public schools has real consequences for students who don’t take vouchers, including larger class sizes and reduced opportunities that would have set them up for future success. By grandfathering in previously voucher-eligible students, whether they had used the vouchers or not, SB 89 fails to curb the destructive explosion of the voucher program, contrary to proponents’ claims. There was no compromise and no consultation with the education community to strike the deal that was passed out by the conference committee. It’s a voucher expansion, plain and simple.”
17) Rhode Island: Unions are coming to the privatized school bus companies. “For the second time in a week a group of student transportation workers voted to join Teamsters Local 251. On Monday, November 16, First Student school bus workers in Scituate, R.I., voted unanimously to join the union. Then on Friday, November 20, Durham School Services drivers, monitors and aides voted by an eight-to-one ratio to also join Local 251.”
18) South Carolina: The Coastal Montessori Charter School board is under fire for removing its director and appointing an interim head. “The decision to name an interim director was postponed from last week, when a virtual meeting of the charter board drew 85 people, many of whom shouted and talked at the same time. The board received public comment and then adjourned. Shaye Heiskell and Sarah Wilson, who are lead teachers at the school, expressed their anger over Nicastro’s firing and how the situation was handled by the board. ‘He revived our spark and trusted us and believed in us,’ Heiskell said. ‘In an instant you all took it away. … I am hurt, offended and baffled by what has happened.’ ‘To see [the school] being torn apart from the inside is heartbreaking,’ Wilson said. ‘No one has helped us through this unprecedented semester, other than Gene Nicastro.’ Wilson also criticized the board’s efforts to return students to in-person classes.”
19) Tennessee: Republican Gov. Bill Lee’s voucher plan is still in chaos and has yet to launch amid a flurry of lawsuits and chicanery by a pro-voucher group. “Emails obtained through a public records request by The Associated Press show state officials were clashing with the American Federation for Children—a group previous chaired by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos—as they rushed to get the voucher program up and running in the final days before a Tennessee judge blocked it from going into effect.”
“Your strategy or lack of has caused nothing but confusion,” wrote Amity Schuyler, former education deputy commissioner. ‘You’ve positioned AFC to funnel low income parents to your website where you have deliberately withheld important program information, withheld important technical assistance resource and translated materials, in order to broker an exchange of information to access a state application that is open domain,’ Schuyler added in her May 1 email—less than a week before a state judge deemed the program illegal and prohibited it from being implemented.”
20) National: As President-elect Joe Biden works to put together a cabinet, sharp debate has broken out among Democrats over who should be transportation secretary, a critically important post with responsibilities for infrastructure and mass transit. Rumors that former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel might be given the post set off a firestorm among progressives, who pointed to Emanuel’s record on police violence, school closures and a disastrous privatization of school custodial services. The state of play among the various candidates for the post and who’s lining up for and against them can be found here and here. Meanwhile, the progressive groups Sunrise Movement and Justice Democrats have suggested Reps. Jesús “Chuy” García (D-Ill.) and Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) for the post.
21) National/Puerto Rico: Journalist Ed Morales has a terrific piece in The Nation laying out the massive privatization program being implemented by the rich and powerful in Puerto Rico and on the mainland. Ángel Figueroa Jaramillo, the head of UTIÉR (Unión de Trabajadores de la Industria Eléctrica y Riego), Puerto Rico’s electrical and irrigation workers’ union, has a message: “Keep public goods public and give Puerto Rico a fair chance to right its economy without punishing austerity.” This “is a popular one on the island, but it hasn’t received the same coverage as the endless parade of government scandals and this year’s fraught gubernatorial contest. Since 2016, when, in response to the island’s spiraling debt, the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act (PROMESA) was signed into law, many of its major decisions have been in the hands of the Financial Oversight and Management Board (FOMB), which many call simply ‘The Junta.’ The FOMB is tasked with restructuring the territory’s $72 billion debt; its main tool, a brutal austerity regime. Hundreds of schools have closed, government workers’ pensions are threatened with cuts, municipalities are being defunded, and PREPA is slated to be fully privatized as part of the solution to its $9 billion debt.” The privatization is predictably being marketed as a P3.
22) Illinois: Utility workers and residents are alarmed that Rock Island is scheming to sell off its water infrastructure and operations to Illinois American Water. “During a press conference Thursday evening in front of the water plant, 2215 16th Ave., a dozen AFSCME Local 988 employees gathered to voice their concerns about what may happen if the city sells to a private company. AFSCME Union representative Audie Schmidt said on Oct. 30, Illinois American Water representatives gave Rock Island water plant employees a presentation and answered questions about what would happen if a deal goes through. ‘That was alarming for us because we didn’t know things had progressed to that level, but they had,’ Schmidt said. ‘We are here to ask the city council to commit to keeping the water and sewer public. Keep it under local control; don’t sell it. We are concerned about it.’ AFSCME Local 988 President Tony Munson said Rock Island city residents should speak up and tell city leaders they don’t want their water privatized.”
23) Maryland: The private, for profit companies supposedly managing the Purple Line P3 have successfully strong-armed Maryland taxpayers to kick in an additional $250 million to keep them from walking away from their “partnership” and leaving behind a half-built ruin across Montgomery and Prince Georges counties. “The lead Purple Line firm, Meridiam, is competing as part of a team to build billions of dollars of toll lanes on the Capital Beltway and Interstate 270 via partnerships with MDOT.” What could possibly go wrong? Well come to think of it, see the next item.
24) Maryland: No need to wonder whether lawsuits will accompany any decision to proceed with the I-270/I-95 private tolling project. They’re already in gear. The Washington Post, apparently stung by the Purple Line fiasco, reports that the lawyers are already gearing up lawsuits for an epic battle, and the paper raises questions about whether taxpayers will again be left on the hook as they are being in the Purple Line settlement. How’s that P3 “risk sharing” philosophy going, you know the one where the public was supposed to be prepared to take on “a little more risk” to “get things done”?
“Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) has said the state can expand the Capital Beltway and Interstate 270 at no net cost to taxpayers because the private sector will build billions of dollars of toll lanes in exchange for keeping most of the revenue,” says the Post. “But that promise doesn’t appear to include the potential public expense laid bare by a similar public-private partnership on the state’s troubled Purple Line project: those stemming from a legal challenge that can stall construction, drive up costs and sour relationships underlying decades-long contracts. Before quitting in September, the Purple Line’s construction contractor blamed lawsuit-related delays for $131 million in cost overruns. The potential for a legal fight over Maryland’s highway plan grew more apparent this month, when environmental groups, local officials and project critics responded to the state’s draft environmental impact statement. Legal experts say opponents typically lay their legal groundwork in their comments because doing so is a prerequisite for filing a lawsuit later.”
25) New York: The Metropolitan Transportation Authority faces a budget deficit expected to exceed $16 billion by 2024, the agency’s worst financial crisis. How bad could it get? The New York Times has looked ahead to what MTA’s “doomsday” cuts would look like if federal help does not materialize. Cuts would include slashing subway and bus service by 40 percent and cutting commuter rail service in half. Bus routes and subway lines could disappear, challenging essential front line health workers and first responders who rely on subways and buses. Train crews could be cut in half and trigger fierce labor battles. Fares could rise dramatically in the midst of an economic downturn.
26) International: The Victoria (Australia) state government’s decision to introduce a user charge for electric vehicles “signals a dangerous step towards a privatized road user charge scheme” says Sam Hibbins, the Greens Member for Prahran. “I only had to look at who had originally proposed the tax—Infrastructure Partnerships Australia, a pro-privatization ‘think-tank’ representing Transurban and road builders. They were also the first ones out of the gate to support the government’s move. And we know that Transurban has been gunning to get their hands on road user charging rights for some time.” Transurban is part of a team bidding on the controversial I-270/I-95 tollway in Maryland.
Criminal Justice and Immigration
27) National: Nonprofit Quarterly’s Beth Couch has an overview of the future of the private prison industry under a Biden-Harris Administration. Her conclusion, based largely on GEO and CoreCivic’s modestly rising stock prices over the past month, is that the prison companies will plow along. “Even with changing public sentiment towards mass incarceration and public pressure to divest from private prison companies,” Couch writes, “what can a Biden-Harris Administration really do? If their rebounding stocks are any indication, private prison companies are not too worried about the next administration. Investors are continuing to invest in private prison companies, intimating that profiting off the incarceration and detention of human beings, regardless of the words used to designate it, continue to underpin the American economy.” Perhaps. But watch what happens to those share prices if Biden comes through on his promise to end private prisons.
28) National/Georgia: Cameroonian immigrants say they were beaten, pepper-sprayed, and forced to sign deportation documents at ICE facilities run for profit by CoreCivic and LaSalle Corrections. “CA alleges that six Adams County officers and four ICE officers forced him and the others to the ground. They pepper-sprayed them in the eyes, he said, and one man identified as a security officer at Adams County Correctional Center [which is run by CoreCivic—ed.] named Mr. Green broke his finger. His testimony said that by the end of the ordeal, multiple fingers were broken. ‘I was crying, “I can’t breathe,” because they were forcefully on top of me pressing their body weight on top of me,” his testimony reads.”
29) National: House Committee chairs Bennie G. Thompson and Carolyn Maloney have subpoenaed LaSalle Corrections “after it refused to hand over documents related to allegations of medical abuse and Covid safety hazards among undocumented immigrants.” Politico reports that “Thompson (D-Miss.) and Maloney (D-N.Y.) also said the firm refused to provide a copy of its contract with ICE. ‘Despite the seriousness of the allegations taking place at their facility, LaSalle has stonewalled our Committees since we began our investigation in September,’ Thompson and Maloney said in a statement. ‘By refusing to provide even the most basic information about the treatment and care provided—at taxpayer expense—to women detained at ICDC, LaSalle is actively obstructing the Committees’ efforts to examine the troubling allegations and get answers to the American people.’” Whoever is the new head of ICE under President Biden should turn over those documents.
30) National/California: One of the biggest U.S. prison COVID outbreaks appears to be taking place in downtown Los Angeles, at the federal Metropolitan Detention Center. All visits to that facility have been called off indefinitely.
31) National: United Government Security Officers of America (UGSOA), Local 871, has filed an unfair labor practices charge against the GEO Group for “8(a)(5) Repudiation/Modification of Contract [Sec 8(d)/Unilateral Changes].” And last week International Union, Security, Police and Fire Professionals of America (SPFPA) filed unfair labor practices charges against CoreCivic for “8(a)(3) Discharge (Including Layoff and Refusal to Hire (not salting))” and “8(a)(1) Concerted Activities (Retaliation, Discharge, Discipline).”
32) Iowa: The union that represents employees at Iowa correctional institutions is calling for the system to lock down for at least four weeks to stem the spread of COVID-19. “American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 61 held a news conference alongside state Sen. Rich Taylor (D-Mount Pleasant) and state Rep. Wes Breckenridge (D-Newton) Monday, a week after the first death of a state corrections officer due to the pandemic.”
33) North Carolina: Three North Carolina state prisons have shut down and been cleared of inmates over the past week as the system deals with a coronavirus outbreak that reportedly has filled hospital space for prisoners. But “even if they are testing and quarantining, closing down prisons, packing more people into the ones that aren’t closed, and moving large groups of people around like this is incredibly dangerous and invites more outbreaks,” ACLU attorney Leah Kang told The Charlotte Observer.
34) Tennessee: The contract that Hamilton County has with CoreCivic to run Silverdale Correctional ends next monthand there will be a new health care provider for inmates, Quality Correctional Health Care.
35) North Carolina: GEO Group announces that the U.S. Bureau of Prisons will not be renewing its contract to run Rivers Correctional Institution (RCI) in Winton. 300 employees will be affected. The contract is scheduled to expire on March 31, 2021. GEO ran the facility for 20 years. “The contract for the Rivers Correctional Facility generated approximately $43 million in annualized revenues for GEO. GEO expects to market the Rivers Correctional Facility to other federal and state agencies,” the company said in a press release.
36) National: Ranking Member Jon Tester (D-MT) of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee has denounced the Veterans Administration for moving to increase the privatization of Compensation and Pension (C&P) exams. “We were alarmed to learn that VA’s vision for the future of the C&P program is to fully utilize private contractors to take over the VA personnel’s workload, which we believe has the potential for serious long-term negative impacts on the services and benefits provided to our nation’s veterans,” Tester and his colleagues wrote to VA Secretary Robert Wilkie. “As you know, when Congress established the pilot program to contract C&P exams with non-VA medical professionals, it was done in order to supplement VA’s internal capacity to perform exams to help veterans, not supplant it.”
37) National: State leaders “are weighing possible cuts to Medicaid services and health-care benefits to offset rising costs due to a surge of enrollees who have lost jobs and need health coverage as the coronavirus pandemic has intensified,” MarketWatch reports. “Congress boosted federal matching funds to states for Medicaid as part of its first coronavirus relief package, but many states are still struggling to afford the increasing pace of sign-ups in the program for low income and disabled people. Enrollment for the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, 2021, is expected to jump 8.2%, with state spending accelerating by 8.4%, compared with 6.3% growth in the previous fiscal year, based on data from 42 state Medicaid directors compiled by the Kaiser Family Foundation. Medicaid has grown to become one of the largest portions of state budgets, from about 21% in fiscal 2008 to about 30% in fiscal 2018, according to the National Association of State Budget Officers.”
38) National: Lawmakers are asking the GAO to keep them abreast of efforts by Trump to strip civil service protections from federal workers. “The executive order contradicts 137 years of tradition and practice based on merit systems principles,” they said in a letter. “For example, the executive order would erode due process protections for civil service employees and make it easier for the administration to fire qualified individuals who base their professional opinions on evidence, science and analysis.”
40) Puerto Rico: A federal judge has rejected bondholders’ claims for compensation from the federal government. “Although the case centered on the plaintiff investment funds’ Puerto Rico Employers Retirement System bonds, if the judge ruled in their favor, the judgment could have been applied to other types of Puerto Rico bonds.”
41) Virginia: Henrico County is pursuing a P3 for a new detox and addiction recovery center. “The new Henrico County Mental Health & Developmental Services East Center opened earlier this month on Nine Mile Road. The new outpatient health facility replaces a smaller clinic on Laburnum Avenue. After pausing plans for a third county jail, Henrico officials are working to build a $12 million detox and recovery center to help adults struggling with substance use disorder. The 24-hour center would provide medically supervised detox and services with an initial capacity of 12 to 16 beds, according to procurement documents.”
42) International: Author and journalist Linda McQuaig says the “PM admits Canada no longer has vaccine production capability. That’s because we privatized Connaught Labs—which contributed brilliantly to medical advances, incl development of polio vaccine. (see my book “The Sport & Prey of Capitalists”). Enough privatization!”
43) Revolving Door News: Critics are weighing in to object to alleged ethics and revolving door connections of some anticipated Biden national security appointees. “The two firms are examples of how former officials leverage their expertise, connections and access on behalf of corporations and other interests, without in some cases disclosing details about their work, including the names of the clients or what they are paid. And when those officials cycle back into government positions, as Democrats affiliated with WestExec and Pine Island are now, they bring with them questions about whether they might favor or give special access to the companies they had worked with in the private sector. Those questions do not go away, ethics experts say, just because the officials cut their ties to their firms and clients, as the Biden transition team says its nominees will do.”
44) National: Progressives are raising objections to the Biden team’s pick for overseeing the transition at a key regulatory agency in the White House. “Bridget C.E. Dooling, a research professor at George Washington University, has been tapped to help with the agency review team at the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA), which reviews all executive branch regulations before they can be enacted. Critics say they’re concerned with Dooling’s prominent role given that the center where she works, George Washington’s Regulatory Studies Center, has received funding from both the Charles Koch Foundation and ExxonMobil and has long been viewed as conservative-leaning.”
45) International: European Union vaccine procurement contracts are shrouded in secrecy, raising questions about how the massive public funding is being spent, reports the Financial Times. “‘It’s a culture of non-transparency,’ said Jamie Love, the head of US-based advocacy group Knowledge Ecology International (KEI). ‘It’s particularly frustrating with Covid because of the massive public interest and the amount of money involved. Once [secrecy is] peeled away, what you see is a massive privatisation of billions of dollars of government funds,’ he added. Very little information has been officially released by the companies themselves or the government buyers. People briefed on talks between drugmakers and the European Commission have said that AstraZeneca sold its jab at about $3 to $4 a dose, while the Johnson & Johnson shot and the vaccine jointly developed by Sanofi and GSK were priced at about $10 a dose.” [Sub required]
Photo by Sanofi Pasteur.