(CN) – Fresh off an endorsement this week from celebrity couple John Legend and Chrissy Teigen, Democratic presidential hopeful Elizabeth Warren released a new plan Tuesday to break up the close ties between big companies and Washington.
Using phrases like “revolving door” and “flex his Washington Rolodex,” Warren described the practice by which big corporations like Facebook, Pfizer, Google, Boeing and Comcast gain access to the federal regulation process by scooping up former senior government officials for cushy positions. In the last few decades, she said, antitrust policies put into place a century ago by President Theodore Roosevelt have been shredded.
“As the revolving door between the largest corporations and government has spun out of control, our economy has grown much more consolidated, with just two companies now controlling over half of the market in hardware, pharmacies, car rentals, railroads, shipbuilding, and many other industries,” Warren wrote.
Facebook either owns or operates sides through which 85% of social media traffic is routed, Warren continued. Amazon controls almost half of U.S. e-commerce. Hospitals have concentrated, and pharmaceutical companies have consolidated, driving up health care prices.
Warren said she does not want to stop companies from hiring people with government experience, and vice versa. But under her new plan, giant corporations would have to wait four years after senior government officials leave public office to hire them. The restriction would apply to companies that control their industry or are worth $150 billion, as well as to large federal contractors. She’d levy a series of increasing fines to violators, in the millions for a first offense.
Warren also pointed to “soft corruption” in the Department of Defense and what she called illegal contract manipulation by the Trump administration, citing for example news this week that Trump ordered his onetime Defense Secretary Jim Mattis to “screw Amazon” on contracts because the president dislikes CEO Jeff Bezos.
“When federal contracts go to the most well-connected firms instead of the best people for the job, that’s corruption,” Warren wrote. “It wastes taxpayer dollars – and when it comes to the DOD, threatens to undermine our national security. But good luck competing for contracts when those who receive the lion’s share of the deals also have unparalleled access to the officials who are awarding them.”
A CNN poll released Tuesday showed Warren trailing Vermont Senator and lefty rival Bernie Sanders 18% to 21% among likely voters in New Hampshire, the nation’s first primary state. Nearly half of voters saw Sanders as the most progressive candidate in the field, according to the poll, while just 18% characterized Warren that way.