Progressives aghast over new WH chief of staff, say hiring a successful businessman step 'rightward'

"Replacing Klain with him is a step backward and rightward for a White House orientation that has deteriorated during the last two years," one activist said.
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Former White House COVID czar Jeff Zients
Former White House COVID czar Jeff Zients
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Progressives are expressing concerns about President Joe Biden's new chief of staff, Jeff Zients, over his corporate history and his ability to bridge the gap between progressive and establishment Democrats like his predecessor Ron Klain.

Zients previously served as a member of the board of directors for Facebook and the Children's National Medical Center.

He also was the chief executive of the education and healthcare consulting company Advisory Board and was a managing partner of Portfolio Logic investment firm, Reuters reported. His ethics disclosure in May 2022 stated that his estimated assets stand are $85 million to $419 million.

"'Skeptical' only begins to describe the reasonable and widespread view of Zients that’s shared by many progressive Democrats," Norman Solomon, co-founder of the digital activism group RootsAction, told The Hill on Wednesday. "Replacing Klain with him is a step backward and rightward for a White House orientation that has deteriorated during the last two years."

Progressive Rep. Pramilla Jayapal, a Washington Democrat, applauded Klain as a "national treasure" after he left the White House last month. She said he helped advance "the most progressive legislation passed in recent history," and she hopes Zeints will "continue to deliver progressive wins."

News outlet The Intercept wrote last week that before joining Biden's COVID-19 response team, "Zients helped oversee two health care companies embroiled in Medicare and Medicaid fraud allegations," and he "is also a former Facebook board member, worrying progressives pushing for the administration to rein in Silicon Valley."

Revolving Door Project Executive Director Jeff Hauser, whose watchdog group is a project of the progressive Center for Economic and Policy Research think tank, said: "Americans are appalled by profiteering in healthcare – Jeff Zients has become astonishingly rich by profiteering in healthcare. Americans are aghast at how social media companies have built monopolies and violated privacy laws – Zients served on the Board of Directors of Facebook as it was defending itself against growing attacks from both political parties."