President’s wealthy new chief of staff and ex-Covid coordinator served on the board at Facebook

Biden’s Big Tech ties: President’s wealthy new chief of staff and ex-Covid coordinator served on the board at Facebook

  • Zients, who formerly served as Biden’s COVID coordinator, will become Biden’s right-hand man after Ronald Klain steps down next month
  • Zients joined Facebook’s board as an independent director in 2018 and did not seek re-election in 2020
  • While on the board Zients was aligned with those who pushed Mark Zuckerberg to fact-check political ads and take more care over Facebook’s role in elections 

President Biden is bolstering his White House‘s Big Tech ties by tapping Jeff Zients, who formerly served on Facebook‘s board of directors, as his new chief of staff. 

Zients, who formerly served as Biden’s COVID coordinator, will become Biden’s right-hand man after Ronald Klain steps down next month. He’s expected to depart after the State of the Union on February 7. 

Zients joined Facebook’s board as an independent director in 2018 and did not seek re-election in 2020. Facebook said he departed to ‘devote more time to his business and other professional interests.’

While on the board, Zients chaired Facebook’s Audit and Risk Oversight Committee. Securities and Exchange Commission filings show the ex-COVID coordinator was paid $100,000 in cash and $300,000 in stocks for his work chairing Facebook’s audit committee. 

President Biden is bolstering his White House's Big Tech ties by tapping Jeff Zients, who formerly served on Facebook's board of directors, as his new chief of staff

President Biden is bolstering his White House’s Big Tech ties by tapping Jeff Zients, who formerly served on Facebook’s board of directors, as his new chief of staff

Zients liquidated his Facebook stock and retained no equity in the company when he joined the Biden White House. 

Still, there are concerns that social media companies could see special privilege with the White House – or vice versa – by the promotion of Zients. 

‘Joe Biden hiring a chief of staff, who is the top staffer in our government, while having deep ties to Facebook should be very concerning to Republicans and Democrats who are concerned about the growing influence Big Tech has over our government and country,’ a former House Judiciary aide told DailyMail.com. 

‘Implications for this run very deep, having someone with such close ties to Facebook could lead to Facebook having special access, killing legislation to rein in Big Tech, or simply filling government jobs with people more friendly to Big Tech.’ 

Zients, a businessman and economic advisor to President Obama, served as the acting director of the Office of Management and Budget, where he was credited with helping fix Healthcare.gov, the health care exchange website whose rollout was marred by technical issues. 

Outgoing Chief of STaff Ron Klain (left) will step down within weeks. Klain has worked with Biden in government for decades

Outgoing Chief of STaff Ron Klain (left) will step down within weeks. Klain has worked with Biden in government for decades 

But Zients’s investment firm Portfolio Logic was hit with a federal lawsuit in 2015 and had to pay $7 million to resolve allegations of fraudulent Medicare and Medicaid billing involving a subsidiary (Pediatric Services of America Healthcare – PSA) it purchased in 2007.

According to the Department of Justice, PSA pocketed healthcare overpayments  from the federal government instead of returning them. 

After the Obama administration he became president of investment holding company Cranemere Group in addition to joining Facebook’s board. 

Zients has disclosed owning between $89.3 million and $442.8 million in assets, including various investment funds, real estate properties, and cash shares.

During his time on the Facebook board, Zients was known to be aligned with fellow board member Kenneth Chenault, the ex-American Express CEO whose departure was announced weeks before Zients’s. Chenault left over disagreements with CEO Mark Zuckerberg over free speech policies – Zuckerberg said he would not fact-check political advertisements while Chenault shared concerns about disinformation. 

Chenault pushed the company to do more in its role in elections and grew frustrated Zuckerberg was not heeding his advice, per the Wall Street Journal. 

The chief of staff shake-up comes as Biden is facing mounting troubles over his handling of classified documents from his Obama White House days. 

Klain had previously stated his intent to leave the administration following the midterm elections, noting publicly that the position can be exhausting. 

But progressives were displeased by the Zients announcement. 

Liberal think tanks such as the Center for Economic and Policy Research and Public Citizen have been vocal in their opposition to Zients’ tenure as COVID czar, accusing him of not going far enough on mask mandates and not acting quickly enough to ship vaccines overseas.

The Revolving Door Project, which is critical of Zients’ wealth and corporate past, has also criticized his hiring as chief of staff, claiming that he has profited from healthcare and may even prevent the administration from acting in the best interests of the American people.

‘Americans are appalled by profiteering in healthcare – Jeff Zients has become astonishingly rich by profiteering in healthcare,’ Revolving Door Project Executive Director Jeff Hauser said in a statement on Sunday.

‘Joe Biden’s best chance to fight for the American people and defeat the dark forces threatening our economy is to show real results via the branch of government he runs – the executive branch,’ he said.

‘We have long argued for a ‘corporate crackdown’ on behaviors that violate federal laws and harm the American people in order for corporations to become richer. Those are the practices that have made Zients rich. We’re deeply worried that Zients will prevent the administration from exercising power righteously on behalf of an already cynical populace.’

One year into Zients’ role coordinating the White House’s coronavirus response, the Revolving Door Project published an article calling for Zients to be fired.

It described him as aa ‘former corporate executive whose track record bolsters the worst possible impulses for a Biden appointee in command of the federal government’s resources.’

‘Taken together, an examination of the companies that made Zients rich paints a picture of a man who seized on medical providers as a way to capitalize on the suffering of sick Americans. In the end, it seems to have all paid off,’ the report stated.

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