Jeff Berman's got a new job! The former Obama/Clinton staffer is now Beto O'Rourke's senior advisor, having moved laterally from his post-Obama-campaign career working for the DC lobbyists Bryan Cave, where he lobbied on behalf of Seaworld, the Keystone XL pileline and the private prison industry.
But definitely this is all OK because purity tests will rip the Democratic Party apart. How can we possibly defeat Trump in 2020 unless we're willing to form broad coalitions with people who want to render the planet unfit for human habitation, lock up an infinite number of brown people to enrich wealthy human rights criminals, and torture intelligent sea creatures on behalf of Seaworld owner Blackstone, the world's largest hedge fund?!
Also: lest you fear that Berman will feel isolated in O'Rourke's staff, consider that he's got lots of allies around the office, like O'Rourke chief of staff Jen O'Malley Dillon, cofounder of Precision Strategies, whose client roster includes Pfizer, Bank of America and Facebook,
Many of these clients are ostensibly on the opposite side of many of the issues that O'Rourke is campaigning on. Take, for example, immigration, a central theme of O'Rourke's presidential run: He launched his campaign in the border town of El Paso, Texas, railing against Donald Trump's immigration policies and stating, "For more than 100 years, this community has welcomed generations of immigrants from across the Rio Grande." Yet the GEO Group, for which Berman's work (along with other lobbyists) made Bryan Cave $60,000 in 2010, has profited handily from its business of running private prisons, including immigrant detention centers. According to reporting from the Daily Beast, the GEO Group made large donations to Trump's campaign and has only seen its revenue soar under the current administration, earning $2.3 billion in 2018, up from $2.18 billion in 2016. Berman's work on behalf of the GEO Group was for "outreach related to the Bureau of Prisons budget allocation in the Administration's FY2011 budget," according to federal filings.
O'Rourke has also been trying to shore up his climate change bonafides in response to the young activist base of the Democratic Party. After being heavily criticized for breaking his pledge to not take money from fossil fuel executives during his Senate campaign, O'Rourke made the first major policy proposal of his presidential run a $5 trillion plan to combat climate change. And, after much pressure, O'Rourke again pledged to take in no fossil fuel money, promising to return donations already made to his campaign by fossil fuel executives.
Yet Berman's past work on behalf of TransCanada between 2009 and 2011 puts O'Rourke's newest staffer squarely on the opposite side of one of the most contentious climate issues during Obama's tenure. As HuffPost reported when the Clinton campaign hired Berman, he and other officials from Bryan Cave made the firm $980,000 for their lobbying work for TransCanada.
Newest Beto O'Rourke Hire Lobbied for Keystone XL, Seaworld, and Private Prisons [Clio Chang/The Intercept]
(Image: Erik Drost and Josh Lopez, CC-BY)