A shadowy consulting firm which openly brags about its ability to connect clients to the White House is set to prominently feature in the Biden administration, according to Politico.
Founded in 2017 by Tony Blinken – Joe Biden’s pick for Secretary of State – WestExec Advisers advertises itself as “quite literally, the road to the Situation Room,” adding “and it is the road everyone associated with WestExec Advisors has crossed many times en route to meetings of the highest national security consequences.”
Another WestExec executive, Michèle Flournoy, is a top contender for Secretary of Defense, while former WestExec principal, Avril Haines, is Biden’s pick for director of national intelligence.
Meanwhile, WestExec’s client list is just as secretive.
Because its staffers aren’t lobbyists, they are not required to disclose who they work for. They also aren’t bound by the Biden transition’s restrictions on hiring people who have lobbied in the past year.
Such high-powered Washington consulting firms are “the unintended consequence” of greater disclosure requirements for registered lobbyists, said Mandy Smithberger, director of the Center for Defense Information at the Project on Government Oversight.
By not directly advocating for federal dollars on behalf of their clients, they don’t have to publicly divulge who is paying them and for what activities, such as the connections they make with government agencies, she said. But it is also impossible to assess the influence they have on federal expenditures. –Politico
“They avoid becoming registered lobbyists or foreign agents and are instead becoming strategic consultants,” said Smithberger.
What’s more, WestExec employs a ton of former Democratic national security and foreign policy officials who have been involved in fundraising for Biden’s campaign, have joined his transition team, or have acted as unofficial advisers. In fact, 21 of the 38 WestExec employees listed on the firm’s website donated to the Biden campaign – with Flournoy raising over $100,000 alone.
Five WestExec staffers — all veterans of the Obama administration — are on leave from the firm to help staff Biden’s review teams for the Pentagon, the Treasury Department, the Council of Economic Advisers and other agencies, which are charged with coordinating the transfer of power between outgoing Trump officials and Biden’s appointees.
Two other WestExec principals were among those who briefed Biden last week on national security: Bob Work, who served as deputy secretary of defense in the Obama administration and was asked to remain on for the first few months of the Trump administration, and David Cohen, a former deputy director of both the CIA and the Treasury Department who is also in the running for a top post.
Former Obama White House communications director Jen Psaki – also a WestExec employee – is also advising Biden’s transition team, while two former WestExec’ers – Lisa Monaco and Julianne Smith – are under consideration for potential Biden administration hires.
The firm was so well positioned to take over in a Democratic administration that they negotiated a clause in their office lease that they can break it if members are called back to public service, according to American Prospect.
WestExec isn’t the first DC consulting firm staffed by former administration officials who “serve as the government in waiting for the party that’s out of power” according to Meredith McGehee – executive director of Issue One, a Washington good government group (per Politico), adding that while there’s nothing wrong with it – Blinken and other potential Biden Cabinet picks who have worked for firms such as WestExec should go further than the law requires and publicly disclose any clients for whom they’ve done significant work.
Read the rest of the report here.