One of Biden's top contenders for defense secretary is an advisor to an investment firm that recently raised $218 million for investments into military and aerospace companies. She is one of many individuals positioned as Biden aides to hold eyebrow-raising positions with companies holding lucrative federal contracts.
A Saturday report from The New York Times addressing various potential ethical dilemmas faced by Biden surrounding his connections to both consulting firm WestExec Advisors and investment firm Pine Island Capital Partners, revealed that the two companies consider themselves to be strategic partners and share a swath of politically connected characters.
Michèle Flournoy is one of these characters, and also happens to be in line as one of Biden's top picks for defense secretary. She helped found WestExec with Biden secretary of state pick Antony J. Blinken.It doesn't stop there. Biden's national intelligence director pick Avril Haines, and several other advisors including Christina Killingsworth, Ely Ratner, and Jennifer Psaki have all had stints at WestExec, according to the Times report.
Pine Island is headed up by John Thain, who was the chief executive of Merrill Lynch during the 2008 collapse. It has also been busy purchasing various weapons systems industry companies over the past year, including a company that sells training systems to law enforcement and the Pentagon.
Similar complications are mirrored throughout these ties, but especially with Flournoy who served as Obama's secretary of defense for policy.
Her complications go beyond WestExec and Pine Island, having various other business relationships that could prove to cause ethical conflict.T
The Times points out that Flournoy is also on the board of a company called Booz Allen Hamilton, which paid her $440,000 over the past two years and holds billions in federal contracts -- including a 2018 deal to supply cybersecurity to six separate federal agencies.
A Biden spokesman has promised that any appointees who hold positions with WestExec or Pine Island would step down and sell their ownership stakes.
“Joe Biden has pledged the most ethically rigorous administration in American history, and every cabinet member will abide by strict ethics rules and abide by all disclosure requirements," spokesman Andrew Bates said, adding that Blinken had already taken leave from both companies.