Tag: Scrutiny

Biden’s son-in-law faces scrutiny over startup investment

Move over Hunter, now it’s Howard’s turn to face some Biden family conflict-of-interest scrutiny.

Politico reported Tuesday that Joseph R. Biden’s son-in-law Howard Krein served as an informal adviser to his campaign’s COVID-19 response while also being involved in a venture capital firm that set aside $1 million for startups with ideas aimed at addressing the pandemic and others like it.

StartUp Health, the investment firm that employs Mr. Krein, who is married to Mr. Biden’s daughter Ashley, sought to pump money into ideas related to “mitigating, managing, or treating the coronavirus or future pandemics,” according to the company’s website.

Mr. Krein had been involved in daily briefing calls with Mr. Biden, according to Bloomberg and The New York Times.

Around the same time, Politico reported that his venture capital firm announced it was looking to invest $1 million into startup companies with possible coronavirus breakthroughs.

Mr. Biden has already faced scrutiny over allegations that his son, Hunter, scored a cushy position on the board of a Ukranian energy company while his father led the Obama administration’s efforts in Ukraine.

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Ephemeral messages remove scrutiny from government

The writer is president of Digital Preservation Coalition and author of ‘Burning the Books: A History of Knowledge Under Attack’

Deep in the stacks of Oxford’s Bodleian Library is a remarkable sheet of paper written in the 1660s. It contains an exchange of private messages between King Charles II and his chief minister, Edward Hyde, Earl of Clarendon. The document contains the handwriting of the two men as they play out a tetchy exchange concerning the British monarch’s costs, which Clarendon was struggling to contain.

“I would willingly make a visit to my sister at Tonbridge for a night or two at farthest,” states the king, “when do you think I can I can best spare the time?” Clarendon, with an eye to the cost, replies with a suggestion, adding “I suppose you will go with a light trayne.” The king’s answer is simply that “I intend to take nothing but my night bag.” Clarendon is incensed by this provocative understatement: “God, you will not go without 40 or 50 horse.” The royal put down is epic in its haughty brevity: “I counte that parte of my night bag.”

Today’s private messages of those in the inner echelons of state affairs are vastly more ephemeral than those of their 17th-century predecessors. This sheet of paper found its way into the Bodleian where it can be studied alongside the other “state papers” collected by Clarendon, but it could easily have been lost or destroyed.

The advent across the world of encrypted communications that can be readily used via smartphones leaves the historians of tomorrow with a huge gap. Even more urgently, it leaves the work of officers of the state, whether ministers, senior civil servants or special advisers, unable to be scrutinised by the public who they are employed to serve.

In the UK, the Public Records Act of 1958 was intended to serve the people both now and in the future by preserving records that document the policies and actions of the central government, including those that illustrate the process of developing policy and legislation and the structures and decision-making processes in government.

The mode of communication in government has already shifted to the digital realm, and the use of such technologies should be a matter of concern for all members of the public whatever their political persuasion. They include services like Snapchat and Signal, where messages auto-erase, being designed originally for teenagers who did not wish to have their private messages hanging around on their phones to be discovered by parents.

Today, the systems of recalcitrant youths have been adopted by senior government officials and politicians. This trend was spotted by Dominic Grieve (then a Conservative MP), prompting him last year to table a motion before the House of Commons that the Queen be requested to direct ministers to disclose to the House all correspondence and other communications “to, from or within” the administration relating to the prorogation of parliament before the Brexit deadline.

Mr Grieve specified that this

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Numerical Diversity Hiring Targets Attract Government Scrutiny

The U.S. Labor Department is investigating companies with federal contracts that have included specific numerical goals in their pledges to hire more diverse staff, arguing that these resemble illegal quotas and could potentially discriminate against white applicants and other groups, according to people familiar with the matter.

The department, which sent letters to

Microsoft Corp.


MSFT 0.36%

and

Wells Fargo


WFC 1.98%

& Co. last week about their stated goals to hire more Black employees in management roles, is now looking more broadly and may contact other companies soon, those people said. The department has asked for documents relating to these initiatives going back to January 1, 2020, and has given the companies until the end of this month to deliver a report.

A Labor Department spokesman wouldn’t comment on other possible inquiries, but said the agency will send letters to other contractors if it feels an inquiry is needed to confirm that companies aren’t using race- or sex-based hiring preferences or quotas.

“Companies must take affirmative action but must not discriminate in doing so,” the spokesman said.

The scrutiny, along with a recent White House directive to limit racial-sensitivity training, has caused confusion for many businesses that have federal contracts because federal rules not only allow, but encourage, companies to set diverse hiring goals, said David Cohen, co-founder of the Institute for Workplace Equality, a trade association for federal contractors that counts Microsoft and Wells Fargo as members. The rules were put in place to help expand the pools of job candidates considered to more closely mirror the available workforce, he added.

Microsoft said a Labor Department agency is questioning whether its June pledge regarding diversity violates federal laws prohibiting discrimination based on race.



Photo:

Getty Images

Rules for federal contractors say they must identify the gaps between their workforces and available labor pools, then establish placement goals and plans for meeting them.

Microsoft said the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs, a division of the Labor Department, is questioning whether its June pledge to double the number of Black managers and leaders in its U.S. workforce by 2025 violates federal laws prohibiting discrimination based on race. Wells Fargo also pledged in June to double Black leaders over the next five years and said it would tie certain bonuses to achieving that goal. It too received a letter from the same agency reminding the bank that it may not discriminate on the basis of race to provide additional opportunities and that quotas are prohibited.

Both companies said they are confident their efforts comply with U.S. employment laws.

Some top contractors that announced recent diversity initiatives, including

Boeing Co.


BA 2.06%

, said they haven’t received similar letters from the OFCCP. Boeing pledged to increase its number of Black employees in the U.S. by 20% without giving a time frame.

Enforcing racial or other diversity quotas in hiring is illegal, but spelling out hiring goals is not, several labor law experts said.

Yet hiring goals can cross the line into

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