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Semafor LogoBradley Saacks
Bradley Saacks
business

A ‘staunch capitalist’ will run a White House skeptical of big business

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Title iconThe News

Corporate America hasn’t had many friends in the Joe Biden administration. But the new White House chief of staff has a stamp of approval from big business for good reason — he’s one of them.

Jeff Zients has been described as a “staunch capitalist” by Josh Bolten, George W. Bush’s chief of staff and now head of lobbying group Business Roundtable. Zients will bring to an administration widely viewed as anti-business a resume that includes stints as a Bain & Company consultant and Meta board member, as well as the Biden administration’s technocratic COVID-19 czar.

“Zients is a known quantity in the business community and he’s certainly respected,” said one business lobbyist. “That doesn’t mean we alway agree, but he’s willing to take input from a broad array of stakeholders, whether it’s us or progressives.”

A Wall Street lobbyist said he’s optimistic Zients can help convince Republicans in Congress to raise or suspend the debt ceiling, after the federal government hit its $31.4 trillion borrowing limit last week.

Zients was a point of contact for corporate executives when he served in the Obama administration. The former CEO of investment firm Cranemere Group, Zients listed assets of at least $89 million when he joined the Biden administration in 2021 as one of its wealthiest senior officials.

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Jeff Zients
Reuters/Tom Brenner
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When Biden took office in 2021, he appointed several disciples of Senator Elizabeth Warren, a Wall Street critic, like Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Director Rohit Chopra and other liberals to government posts. Now, to the frustration of some progressives as noted by our Principals colleagues, his selection of Zients marks a new focus on moderates.

With the extremes of the two sides of the aisle already accounted for, the Zients selection is a bridge to the business community that is up for grabs in the next presidential election thanks to the growing rift between big business and the GOP.

And with the House now in Republican hands, the distribution of the hundreds of billions in funds from the Inflation Reduction Act will be a priority for the White House.

Detailed execution of sweeping policy is something Zients, who led the remake of the Obamacare website, has specialized in during his career.

Title iconRoom for Disagreement

It doesn’t matter who is running the White House if the cops on the beat don’t change. Gary Gensler, chair of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, has laid out an agenda that would reshape securities trading, while antitrust enforcer Lina Khan, chair of the Federal Trade Commission, has cracked down on corporate mergers.

“No Washington bureaucracy better exemplifies the Biden administration’s fierce, far-left attacks on free markets than the Federal Trade Commission,” Steve Forbes wrote for Fox Business. “Calling the FTC’s recent actions regulatory overreach would be an understatement.”

Title iconCorrection

A previous version of the story misstated where Jeff Zients worked as a management consultant. He worked at Bain & Company.

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