Joe Biden’s choice of a former Facebook attorney for a senior position in his White House is the latest focal point in the debate over what impact the tech industry should have in Washington.
Biden on Wednesday appointed Jessica Hertz, until this year an attorney focused on regulatory matters in Facebook’s DC office, as his staff secretary, a quietly powerful role in the White House who, for example, determines what papers the president sees. Hertz is a senior consultant to Biden who recently worked for a big tech company.
Their selection has sparked anger from both the right-wing who seeks to curtail the power of big tech and far-left activists who have tried to argue that tech managers should be banned from holding administrative positions.
But many – if not most – of the names of big tech companies that have been implicated in potential appointments are also former consultants to Biden at various points in his career. This complicates the narrative that these candidates are primarily industry loyalists. It wasn’t uncommon for aides to the Obama-Biden administration to take well-paying jobs in tech, which wasn’t as politically toxic as it is today. Taking on a technical job was a safer option compared to going corporate on Wall Street.
So a more Biden-friendly construct is for the president-elect to simply hire people he has worked with and trust in the past, rather than joining the corporate influence. Cynthia Hogan, for example a top advisor to Biden during the campaign, ran Apple’s lobbying operation, but has also worked for Biden in two positions since 1991.
Same goes for Hertz: she was Biden’s deputy vice-president when he was vice-president and is now returning to the Biden group. She only worked on Facebook for about two years.
However, those two years were more controversial than the tenures of former Biden aides who had worked for Big Tech in previous years. Hertz joined Facebook shortly after the Cambridge Analytica scandal erupted in 2018 and sparked a new round of public scrutiny for the tech giant. Her legal portfolio focused on regulatory matters, which culminated in an antitrust case by the Federal Trade Commission this month. According to their LinkedIn page, Hertz left Facebook in June. In the fall, she was announced as General Counsel of the Biden Transition Team.
Facebook is the technology giant that falls by the wayside with Biden’s team the most. His staff fought with the company over disinformation and advertising policies throughout the campaign, and Biden said he was “never a fan of Facebook”.
A transition spokesman said in a statement that the opinion of the bosses mattered: “Members of the new Biden-Harris administration are determined to implement the political ideas put forward by the Biden-Harris campaign, and each one has values that go with it the president agree and elected vice president. “
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