Obama-Biden Democrats made huge money during Trump years, study shows
By Gabe Kaminsky
Daily Caller News Foundation
In the time between the Obama and Biden administrations, 77 Democratic officials who served under both presidents enjoyed a roughly 270% increase in their financial assets while in the private sector, according to a new report.
There are 151 officials who served under Barack Obama and received jobs in the Biden administration, according to a Tuesday report by Columbia University’s Brown Institute for Media Innovation, MuckRock and Forbes, which compiled the 77 financial disclosures. The officials “followed three basic formulas” to get wealthy, according to the report, including joining a major company, law or lobby firm or also starting their own group.
Despite the stock market climbing by 70% from 2017 to 2021 during the Trump presidency, the officials increased their assets by 270%, the report says, compared to a measly 38% increase in assets for the average household.
There are also another 74 individuals who joined the private sector between the Obama and Biden administrations, the report says, but the financial disclosures have not yet been obtained from the National Archives after attempts to do so.
“There is something inherently repulsive about former officials cashing in on their public service,” Craig Holman, a government affairs lobbyist for the left-wing think tank Public Citizen, which seeks corporate transparency and accountability, told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “But it is difficult to regulate their salaries.”
“What can and should be subject to strict regulation are former officials using their connections built while in public service for influence peddling on behalf of a private employer,” said Holman.
One high-ranking Biden official who got paid handsomely in the private sector is Secretary of Defense and four-star general Lloyd Austin, who was commander of the U.S. Central Command from 2013 to 2016. After leaving the Obama administration, the general became a board member for Raytheon Technologies, Nucor Corp. and Tenet Healthcare, a filing shows, and got paid over $2 million in equity grants and $1 million in cash.
Joe Biden’s Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas spent four years at the law firm WilmerHale after leaving the Obama administration, in which he served as deputy DHS secretary. Mayorkas reported that the law firm still owed him $1 million in July 2020, his financial disclosure shows, and he raked in $3.3 million in partnership share.
The Department of Defense did not respond to a request for comment, nor did DHS.
Sameer Punyani, who worked as the Afghanistan Country director in Obama’s Department of Defense after serving on his 2008 campaign, joined defense contractor Booz Allen Hamilton in 2017, his financial disclosure shows. He raked in $293,000 as a lead associate, the filing shows, and by 2021, he and his Booz Hamilton lawyer wife had between $293,000 to $970,000 in retirement savings.
But in 2017, Punyani had less than $15,000 in retirement savings. And Punyani, who now serves in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, went from a $465,000 apartment to a $900,000 townhouse in 2020, according to property records reviewed by the groups who issued the report.
The White House did not respond to TheDCNF’s request for comment, nor did Punyani.
The groups that compiled the revolving door report arrived at its 270% estimate by calculating the percentage increase in each official’s minimum asset income reported from 2017 to 2021, they say. Public financial disclosures list someone’s assets in a range.
“Revolving door abuses can be significantly curtailed by setting a reasonable cooling off period — say, two to five years — in which the former officials are prohibited both from making ‘lobbying contacts’ with their former colleagues in government and from participating in ‘lobbying activity’ in which they help plan and consult on any lobbying campaign,” Holman also told TheDCNF.
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