Report: Biden Budget Chief Neera Tanden Runs A Think Tank Fueled By Corporate And Foreign Money

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Dylan Housman Deputy News Editor
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President-elect Joe Biden’s pick to run his Office of Management and Budget (OMB), Neera Tanden, has reportedly spent nearly a decade running a Washington think tank entangled with foreign and corporate interests. 

Tanden helped found the Center for American Progress (CAP) in 2003 and has been its president and CEO since 2011. She’s been a key player in raising the top liberal think tank’s budget of up to $50 million per year, the Washington Post reported Saturday

Her appointment to head the OMB is attracting criticism from some due the relationship she’s developed with corporate donors during her time running CAP, according to the Post. The OMB carries out the federal government’s spending plan and has a key role in the development of fiscal, economic and regulatory policy, which is why critics have said Tanden has too many conflicts of interest to take the office. 

CAP took in at least $33 million in donations from the financial sector from 2014 to 2019, the Post reported. Those donations were primarily funded by Wall Street actors and top executives at big financial firms, according to the Post’s analysis. During the same time period, Tanden’s organization also received millions of dollars from Silicon Valley donors including Mark Zuckerberg, the Post further reported. (RELATED: Biden’s Transition Team Is Stacked With Former Facebook And Zuckerberg Insiders)

CAP “retains complete control” over its research and their work will always be “driven by solutions that we believe will create a more equitable and just country,” spokesman Jesse Lee told the Post. Their own reporting says that less than 2.5% of their funding came from corporations last year, but that only accounts for money that comes directly from corporations and not their executives or foundations, according to the Post. 

Tanden isn’t only coming under fire for her relationship with American business interests. CAP has also received millions from foreign governments, one of which is the United Arab Emirates. The Saudi-aligned Middle Eastern power gave between $1.5 million and $3 million to Tanden’s think tank in recent years, according to the Post. (RELATED: Two Biden Cabinet Picks Were Reprimanded For Roles In Clinton-Era ‘Pardongate’ Scandal)

CAP promised to stop taking money from “anti-democratic governments” in 2019. Ben Freeman, a monitor of foreign influence on American politics for the Center for International Policy, told the Post that one of CAP’s releases about Saudi Prince Mohammed Bin Salman “reads like something that would be distributed by a Saudi foreign agent.”

If confirmed, Tanden would enter the White House at a time where economic stimulus and recovery from the coronavirus pandemic are key issues facing the Biden administration. She previously served in the Obama administration following the 2008 financial crisis and was a part of passing Obamacare before moving back to CAP, according to the Washington Post. (Progressives Are Not Happy With President-Elect Joe Biden’s Likely Secretary Of Defense Pick, Michele Flournoy)

Tanden appears to face an uphill battle to confirmation. She has been a vocal critic of Independent Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who has so far refused to take a stance on her potential appointment. She has also deleted upwards of 1,000 tweets slamming Republican lawmakers, from some of whom she may now need votes to be confirmed.