With Friends Like These: Neera Tanden

Neera Tanden’s connection to Hillary Clinton goes back to Bill’s White House days when she served as his associate director of domestic policy.  It was during this time that she, like so many others, forged a friendship with Hillary.  Tasked with health care reform, she became a trusted adviser to Hillary during her failed reform efforts in that area.  After that debacle, Hillary was pushed into the background and was frequently out of the White House, yet her and Tanden remained close.  In Hillary’s 2000 Senatorial campaign, she was her issues and policy manager and later joined her Senate staff.  Tanden then joined the Center for American Progress (CAP) before taking leave there to become policy director for Hillary’s failed 2008 presidential run.  She was eventually hired by Obama’s White House to become a senior adviser on health care reform efforts.  After leaving the White House, she rejoined CAP.

As was mentioned in previous articles, CAP was formed in 2002-03 as the brainchild of John Podesta with considerable backing from George Soros.  Originally designed and sold as a “progressive think tank,” it was essentially a Clinton administration in exile.  Although they put out policy papers, the biggest area of expenditures is in their communications department.  They hold frequent panel discussions to push the liberal agenda and reporters laugh that they are inundated with three CAP press releases a day.  They established a Leftist blog- ThinkProgress- which, if you read it, is a laugh a minute and so obviously a Democratic talking points memo.

In 2011, Podesta stepped down as President and CEO of CAP (but remains on the Board of Directors) and Neera Tanden took over his position.  One of the concerns when Podesta stepped down was a belief that funding would drop off.  Initially, that did happen, but Tanden changed the strategy behind fundraising for CAP.  Within a year, CAP had raised $20 million- more than half its operational budget- from foundations.  Generally, foundations do not contribute to broad-based think tanks, but that changed under Tanden’s leadership.

In 2013, The Nation– another liberal online magazine-ran an article somewhat critical of CAP.  It seemed to intimate that CAP had sold its soul for money and had entered into something called The Business Alliance.  Among the corporations that contributed to CAP were Lockheed, Boeing, General Motors, General Electric, Comcast, and Wal-Mart.  A Boeing lobbyist was a member of their Board of Directors. At the 10th Anniversary gala which featured Hillary Clinton, the event was sponsored by such disparate entities as SEIU and Wal-Mart.  That same week, SEIU officials were testifying before Congress about what they objected to about Wal-Mart policies.

As a result, there were reports that press releases and policy proposals were screened by Neera Tanden so as not to offend potential and actual donors.  For example, in 2012 Goldman-Sachs was under fire for policies and transactions they conducted leading to the 2008 financial collapse.  ThinkProgress, in conjunction with the New York Times, was going to run an article critical of Goldman-Sachs.  The article was killed by Tanden the very week she was meeting with a lobbyist for Goldman-Sachs and soon thereafter they made a donation to CAP.

They also have cozy relationships with representatives from Taiwan and Turkey and have published papers stressing the importance of ties between the United States and those countries.  If anything, this illustrates the hypocrisy of operatives like Tanden and CAP.  While decrying the state of money in politics, they nevertheless engage in the very practices they criticize.  CAP officials were among the loudest critics of Jim DeMint taking over at the Heritage Foundation claiming he was converting that organization from a conservative think tank to one of political advocacy while all along CAP was that very thing.  Obviously, under Tanden the Center for American Progress has placed money over principle which is what likely endears her to the likes of Hillary Clinton.

The importance of CAP cannot be underestimated.  This is an organization designed to push a progressive agenda on America and its many fellows and members are filled with former Clinton White House operatives and Hillary campaign veterans.  People like Donald Berwick, Ann O’Leary and Carol Browner have found themselves in powerful policy positions in the Obama White House.

For her part, Tanden is not an official member of the Clinton campaign and that suits her fine.  Unlike others from Hillary’s 2008 effort, she placed aside the animosity towards the Obama camp and joined his White House as an adviser on Obamacare.  Thus, she is another bridge that links Clinton to Obama and feeds into the belief by conservatives that a Clinton administration would be a third Obama term. If possible, it would actually be a lurch to the left of Obama.  In 2014, Tanden asserted that Clinton agreed almost perfectly with the Obama foreign policy.  For her part, Clinton told the 10th anniversary gala of CAP that she shared their vision and Tanden told the crowd that if Clinton was to win the White House, they would have a seat at the table.  Neera Tanden is more at home in an informal advisory role than as a campaign team member.

In January of this year, CAP released a 160-page white paper on economic policy.  It was little noticed at the time since “white papers” are a daily fact of life in Washington, but this gives a clue as to what Hillary Clinton’s economic plan likely involves and we are hearing these things as her campaign revs up.  Among the items listed were:

  1. increased spending on infrastructure;
  2. increased spending on and universal pre-K;
  3. closing corporate tax loopholes;
  4. curbing deductions on corporate executive pay;
  5. middle class tax cuts;
  6. increased FHA subsidies for riskier loans;
  7. comprehensive immigration reform;
  8. regulations to make unionization efforts easier;
  9. establishing German-style work councils;
  10. estate tax relief if business owners convert their businesses to worker-owned entities;
  11. parental leave;
  12. extend and make more people eligible under the Family and Medical Leave Act, and;
  13. universal paid sick and vacation days for all employees.

But, here is the problem for Tanden, CAP, and Clinton: how can this be achieved without upsetting the many business and corporate donors to both the Center for American Progress and the Clinton campaign?  These suggestions to “strengthen the middle class” and “address income inequality” are being heard today from the Clinton campaign.  In effect, the key here is unions and one should expect them to be more vocal advocates for Clinton as the months drag on.  Behind it all will be Neera Tanden pushing this “nudge strategy” to pressure businesses and corporations to adopt these policies voluntarily.

We have a clue as to what a Clinton administration’s policies would look like.  They would be, if implemented, an Obama agenda on steroids and, yes- a third Obama term.  That is why it is so important that she not only be denied the White House, but that Congress remain in control of the Republican Party.

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