Biden Appointee Heather Boushey Criticized By Former Employees For Leading ‘Toxic’ Workplace

Anders Hagstrom White House Correspondent
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President-elect Joe Biden’s latest pick for his Counsel of Economic Advisers (CEA) has former employees accusing her of running a “toxic” work environment that “suppressed diverse voices.”

Biden appointee Heather Boushey currently serves as the president of the Washington Center for Equitable Growth (EG), a D.C. think tank. Her former employee, Claudia Sahm, claims she was forced out of the company in August after writing a blog post about sexism and a lack of diversity in the economic field. Sahm also highlighted past employees who have made similar complaints about Boushey, though EG denies Sahm’s version of events and said she resigned after having “performance issues.”

Sahm laid out her side of the story in a Tuesday post on to her personal blog, saying she had been surprised when her superiors at EG allegedly told her that she had put the both the company’s and Boushey’s reputations in jeopardy with the original post. (RELATED: Biden Announces Nominations For Economic Cabinet Positions)

“I called out elite men in the profession whose words and actions for decades had propagated sexism, racism, elitism, politics. Exclusion that Heather herself has lived during her career,” Sahm wrote Tuesday. “I called [out] men like Larry Summers who advised Biden, Obama, and Clinton. Heather chose Larry over me. I expected retaliation. I did not expect it from Heather.”

“If it were only me who she hurt, you would not be reading this post. I am not the first person Heather needs to apologize to. After the retaliation against me began, I learned that Heather’s abusive behavior was a pattern. And was an open secret among elite circles of DC economic policy,” Sahm added.

Sahm’s post goes on to describe a 2015 memo from within EG’s then-parent company, the Center for American Progress (CAP), which detailed five employees who allegedly quit due to Boushey’s managing style. The memo in question was published on Wikileaks thanks to it being forwarded to CAP Founder John Podesta, whose email was later hacked. Sahm claims CAP President Neera Tanden, who Biden has tapped to lead the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), was also aware of the memo.

One of the employees in the memo, Jeremy Smith, told the company’s human resources department that Boushey was “erratic” and difficult to work with.  A third employee, Enjoli Timmons, said Boushey was “impossible” to work with and was prone to “frequent episodes of yelling and swearing.” Timmons also claimed that a third employee, Kavya Vaghul, told her she had experienced “racist” treatment from Boushey and another superior. Vaghul, however, denied experiencing any discrimination when HR questioned her on the topic, according to the memo.

Sahm has received support from other Democratic economists who say the environment she described is not uncommon in the field of D.C. think tanks.

EG released a statement Tuesday arguing Sahm’s version of events is “not based in fact,” however, writing that neither Sahm nor her direct superior reported to Boushey.

“To be clear, Equitable Growth did not retaliate against Claudia’s blog post. Her supervisor only asked to be given a heads up in advance of any personal posts prior to posting so the press team could be prepared,” the organization added. A parting email from an EG representative that Sahm published to her blog appears to support the request for earlier notification about her publishing personal content.

The email does not reference the “several performance issues” that EG says contributed to the resignation.

The Biden transition team did not immediately respond to a request for comment.