The new chairman of Hillary Clinton's transition team has been an outspoken supporter of the Trans-Pacific Partnership and works for a firm that lobbied for trade policy issues as recently as this spring, a review of congressional lobbying records and articles shows.
[Megan Cassella | August 16, 2016 | Politico]
Ken Salazar, a former U.S. senator and secretary of the interior, praised the 12-nation Asia-Pacific trade deal late last year for its economic and environmental benefits. He called the pact the "greenest trade deal ever" and said it would help middle-class families get ahead.
"The TPP promotes and rewards American firms that export our clean energy ingenuity, creating good jobs at home while shaping a renewable energy future abroad," Salazar co-wrote in a USA Today op-ed in November alongside Bruce Babbitt, another former Interior secretary.
The campaign announced Salazar's appointment earlier Tuesday to its transition team, which will work with Clinton to generate a list of potential cabinet secretaries and lower-level positions. The decision to name Salazar, with his pro-free trade background, raises further questions around Clinton's anti-TPP stance as the former secretary of State has struggled to convince the liberal left that she will continue to oppose the deal if elected.
Salazar's employer since 2013, the law firm WilmerHale, has also been an active participant in the debate on Capitol Hill over TPP and other trade policy issues. In late 2014 the firm spent at least $30,000 lobbying for renewal of "fast-track" Trade Promotion Authority and on issues related to the TPP on behalf of the Business Roundtable, an influential group of top executives from major U.S. corporations, the congressional disclosure database shows . More recently, between April and June of this year, it spent $50,000 lobbying on trade policy and regulatory issues more generally on behalf of the building materials company Owens Corning Corporation, records show.
The Clinton ticket has faced criticism for bringing on supporters of both the TPP and free trade deals more generally. Clinton supported the TPP as a member of the Obama administration before saying last year that it didn't meet her standards, while her running mate Tim Kaine praised the deal as recently as July before saying it "fell short."
Salazar's support of trade deals stretches back to his time in Congress, where the former Colorado senator (2005-09) voted in favor of free trade agreements with Oman and Peru, though he, like then-Senator Clinton, voted against the Central America Free Trade Agreement.
"Current rules of international commerce stack the deck against our state, but opponents of [the TPP] have responded by turning inward, clamoring to turn back the clock, and shutter ourselves from the increasingly interconnected economy," Salazar co-wrote in December in a Denver Post op-ed with two former Colorado governors.
"But the TPP is about looking forward," they added. "Congress should pass the TPP."
Neither Salazar nor the Clinton campaign immediately responded to requests for comment.