Crowd-Sourcing the Revolving Door

This chart of Venn Diagrams (New Year’s Day links) is a nifty visualization[1] that shows how many, many people, through the operations of Washington’s revolving door, have held high-level positions both in the Federal government and in major corporations. To take but one example, the set of all Treasury Secretaries includes Hank Paulson and Bob Rubin, which overlaps with the set of all Goldman Sachs COOs. The overlapping is pervasive. Political scientists and the rest of us have names for such cozy arrangements — oligarchy, corporatism, fascism, “crony capitalism” — but one name that doesn’t apply is democracy. On the flip, you’ll find a larger version of the chart (and a discussion of its provenance).

However, as at least one reader pointed out in mail, this visualization raises a methodological concern which, readers, I’m hoping you can help address. Here’s the big version:

The provenance of the chart:

  • ldsgeek [], to whom I linked, who got it from….
  • David Kramer [], who got it from…
  • Stephanie Herman [], who created the diagrams and licensed them under Creative Commons.

(Kramer’s version consolidates Herman’s diagrams into a single file). Here’s Herman’s graphically dynamic Facebook page: Exposing Progressive Corporatism.

Which brings me to a methodological concern with Herman’s visualization: The dataset.

Herman’s honest: Her goal is to “expose progressive corporatism,” and — assuming for the sake of the argument that Ds are progressive, and that “progressives” are progressive — her chart does exactly that, and very effectively, too.

But what her data does not do is expose corporatism as such; there are very, very few Rs listed; it strains credulity that Hank Paulson was the only high-level GS alum operative in the Bush administration, for example, and if GS isn’t the Rs’ favorite bank, there’s surely another.

Hence, Herman’s chart, if divorced from context[2], might lead somebody — say, a child of six — to conclude that the only corporatists in Washington DC are Ds. Personally, I’d never assume that, but then I see the legacy parties as a single integrated system of shape-shifting weasels anyhow. And I don’t think NC readers need Child-Prufe™ caps on their links of the day. Pragmatically, however, from the standpoint at least of the Occupiers, the chart would be a good deal more effective if the dataset was more inclusive.

So, readers: Can you, in comments, augment Herman’s data by adding more overlaps from the R side of the aisle? Then perhaps we can issue a revised — and thoroughly bipartisan — chart.

Of course, if the data doesn’t support overlaps on the R side, the implications are interesting, no? But that’s hardly likely.

NOTE [1] Venn Diagrams are a nifty technique for meme propagation.

NOTE [2] Which ldsgeek’s post does with “[Obligatory Title],” tumblr’s default. The title is not “D corporatism,” for example.

NOTE Before posting the link, I sampled the data using SourceWatch, and didn’t find any issues. If the existing dataset needs to be cleaned up, that would be useful too.

UPDATE Cross-posted at Corrente.

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About Lambert Strether

Lambert Strether has been blogging, managing online communities, and doing system administration 24/7 since 2003, in Drupal and WordPress. Besides political economy and the political scene, he blogs about rhetoric, software engineering, permaculture, history, literature, local politics, international travel, food, and fixing stuff around the house. The nom de plume “Lambert Strether” comes from Henry James’s The Ambassadors: “Live all you can. It’s a mistake not to.” You can follow him on Twitter at @lambertstrether.


  1. rajanv

    As you rightly point out, that Ms. Herman’s charts are “biased” toward D’s. However, it aptly serves as a counter measure to the delusions held by progressives that they are “superior” than the R’s. Essentially, it boils down to this: we, meaning the aggrieved public is in this for ourselves. This is what the occupy movements have come to symbolize; unfortunately, a coherent set of themes and/or memes have to be developed and actions undertaken. I realize that this is not easy. In general, I would say that the sell-out D’s like BO are far more dangerous than the R’s. So, let us throw the bums out irrespective of R or D and start with a clean slate. This is how revolutions start.

    1. digi_owl

      Yep, both the big ones are in the pocket of the corporate aristocracy. The only question is what “house” they favor…

    2. El Snarko

      No, we ARE superior to the R’s. Do not confuse “Progressives” with the DLC style insider Jezzabells. If you have been studying this game since the 80’s you will remember a time when members of the House were not not particularly well paid. I wish I had a hand held scanner in those days since the comments on how they suddenly realized how valuable their power COULD be, and how being real, real close to serious money for the first time in their lives changed the perceptions of a generation of existing and potential members. This was of course studied in universities and the connection was made: connectedness=money, money =influence, smart people have influence ergo smart people gt a lot of money. So it is smart to be rich, anyway you can so grab it now and grab it all.

      I honestly wish I had clipped the article from the mid 80’s in which some pol said that when the middle class starts to act like and adopt the ethics, desires and goals of the rich the nation is in deep trouble. And so it is. It is a huge loss that the best no longer follow their own muse, their inner vision but take on that of their masters in favor of potential richs. No more “follow your bliss”. It is all bottom line stuff. So irreplacable core competencies go unused. To use a bad analogy that is only partially accurate a self sustaining wolf pack of competent people (the USA) has been turned into a bunch of kennelled sled dogs whose owner feels less food is ‘motivation’ to excel at doing their bidding.

      Now to the real issue. You guys at far far too tough on Obama. Really. I perfectly understand your point(s). You do not understand his:HE IS A POLITICIAN!! What do you expect? A reality based evaluation that takes into consideration that the politician class now is victimized by point number one necessitates the realization that this is as good as we can get unless the majority of voters suddenly apply their minds to the selection process. These are people who want to do good, as long as it does not interfere with their future potential income streams. End of story. The dollars are on the inside. They are also the very rot we see. And love. To hate. In others. Retirement on 80% of 150 K would seem like heaven to most but to these guys it would be dreck.

      1. Darren Kenworthy

        Where “we” and “them” refer to members of ideological or political, or religious factions the statement “we are better than them” is inevitably false. If you limit your comparison to “authentic” members of one faction, but include the entire set of the other faction you commit the strawman fallacy.

        1. El Snarko

          Categorical specificity does not a strawman make. I suppose if this is any dried grass in this matter it is the notion of superiority itself. Arguable in its applicability in politics. I would rather go with more broadly beneficial.

          I just returned from a pary attended by a guy who owns a specialty wholesale chemical company . Does very well. Lots of EU biz. Hates the economy, votes D, gave me the history of housing per him. Of course he did nothing wrong and all “those people”(unemployed, foreclosed) now constitute a major national problem for him. He fears for his business tax load. He weeps for his threatened insularity. I did not hand him a tissue.

  2. Abigail Caplovitz Field

    The Venn Diagram for the DOJ and Covington & Burling would be compelling; so would the diagram of the federal government as a whole and Covington & Burling (major lobby shop) and/or the federal Government and DC law firms/lobby shops general.

  3. Cal

    A few names missing from the Monsanto chart:
    Elena Kagan, Supreme Court Justice
    As President Obama’s Solicitor General, Kagan took Monsanto’s side against organic farmers in the Roundup Ready alfalfa case.
    In Monsanto v. Geertson Seed Farms, Monsanto tried to get the Supreme Court to force genetically engineered alfalfa onto the market without an evaluation of the crop’s environmental impact. Geertson Seed Farms made the case that the USDA should have considered the fact that GE alfalfa would permanently contaminate their GE-free alfalfa seed.
    As Solicitor General, Kagan was supposed to represent the interests of the American people in matters that came before the Supreme Court. Instead, she went to bat for Monsanto.
    Kagan joined a Supreme Court that includes a former Monsanto lawyer, Clarence Thomas.

    An old dataset that includes many “R”‘s is this one:

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      More datasets like this, please! The mindfully link is excellent. Who knew that trade rep Robert Zoellick went to work for Golden Sacks? And lots of other good stuff.

    1. JEHR

      It seems that we need a whole lot more visually stunning venn diagrams for a lot of different revolving doors between government and many other organizations. It makes one wonder whether your average guy/gal on the street, who is not interested in gaining power or money, can ever successfully represent the interests of ordinary citizens.

      I believe getting rid of money in politics and in lobbying would take care of the revolving door which would be left to swing amongst corporations alone leaving government to do the work of the people.

  4. mch

    I would like to see the Department of Education, first the federal and then those in states and large cities, analyzed in similar terms, for the overlap between appointments in these departments and business interests/connections.
    I’m not talking this kind of corruption (widespread as it is —
    — but rather, the sort represented by Michele Rhee’s The New Teacher Project, or by the qualifications of an Arne Duncan who, according to Wikipedia, got started in education administration this way: “In 1992, childhood friend and investment banker John W. Rogers, Jr. appointed Duncan director of the Ariel Education Initiative, a program mentoring children at one of the city’s worst-performing elementary schools and then assisting them as they proceeded further in the education system.[2] After the school closed in 1996, Duncan and Rogers were instrumental in re-opening it as a charter school, Ariel Community Academy.[7] In 1999, Duncan was appointed Deputy Chief of Staff for former Chicago Public Schools CEO Paul Vallas.” In my own state of Massachusetts, The Pioneer Institute, founded in 1988 by Lovett C. Peters, a major contributor to conservative political candidates and to the Club for Growth and Americans for Prosperity, was the major force behind the charter school movement, and the Pioneer Institute’s tentacles of conservative business models for education have since reached into every aspect and level of the state’s education system.

    Has anyone been systematically charting the movement of people between government administrative jobs in education and businesses or ideological “think tanks”?

    1. Jeff

      And of course Marvin Bush, the president’s brother has the exclusive license for the testing material that No Child Left Behind, or “No Child Left a Dime”, mandated.

      Every American with any intellectual curiosity and an interest in politics should read “Family of Secrets” the book by Russ Baker about the Bush Clan. It’s vast and has more footnotes than you’d ever need to verfiy what he says.

  5. marcos

    The Republicans generally don’t paint themselves as anything other than corporate servants, no news in dog bites man.

  6. BN

    Not directly helpful, but … the revolving door is also global. The Super Marios are only the latest and most visible examples. The not-so-visible example of Ramon Fernandez, who got an admiring profile in Izvestia today, deserves notice. (

    In cases like this, there is no door, revolving or not, between their places in the government and the private sector. See his bio on the Web site of the energy giant GDF Suez: . Could make the NY Fed governors blush, if they are capable of such feats as blushing.

    Ominously, this Fernandez is a “Member of the High Council for the Future of Medical Insurance.”

  7. dinglederper

    Billy Tauzin was a Democrat, but from 1995-2005 when he left office he was in the Republican Party.

    1. JGBellHimself

      Well, yes, he was.

      But, note that The Donald was an R up until after 9-11 when he became a D. Then when W left U.S., with Obama, he went back to being an R. Now, he doesn’t like either of them, and thinks he is an “independent”.

      What a joke – which one we don’t know.

      See, these guys are like the stock market – some are cyclical and some are count-cyclical – but they all sell U.S. out to the highest bidder.

      The Problem is, of course, that in ’29 they all jumped out of windows, thereby eliminating themselves – before we had to do it. Butt, of the joke, on U.S., today, they re-invent & clone themselves.

      And, they assume that “The kids”, having learned all of the best ways to kill people, will not get tired of playing cyber games, and come after them.

      The Good News is that “Mad Max – The Road Warrior” might become a real life – or is that real death – sequel, of truly awesome proportions!!!

  8. Nathanael

    It’s trivial to look up the revolving door for George W. Bush and Dick Cheney themselves.

  9. Hugh

    Such diagrams are a start. It is the interconnections and back stories which count, and that is something that these diagrams and sites like sourcewatch really don’t provide.

    One glaring error is that Billy Tauzin was a Democrat until 1995 when he switched parties. For those who don’t remember Tauzin, his name was on the monstrosity known as Medicare Part D, the drug prescription bill, and, as Chairman of the Commerce Committee in 2003, he was instrumental in shepherding it through Congress. After doing this, he quit and was hired by Big Pharma’s main lobbying group for $2.5 million a year.

    Also it is kind of screwy that William Dudley the current head of the New York Fed and in the past Goldman’s chief economist doesn’t make the list.

    Also Neel Kashkari was a Paulson acolyte whom Paulson chose to head the TARP. And Paulson also chose Edward Liddy who was on Goldman’s board to run AIG when the government took it over.

  10. rps

    Where’s the revolving doors of the Military Industrial Complex? Or the Insurance complex? Or Educational Industrial complex? Or the Homeland Security Industrial complex There are lots of “R & D’s” there.

    Comcast, GE, Goldman Sach’s, Big Oil, Pharmaceuticals along with many other global corpses would not and Can Not exist without the taxpayer subsidies. They all feed at the taxpayer trough. Governments choose the corporate winners and losers, and not the other way around.

      1. JGBellHimself

        That was inexcusable.

        However…, what you might, or might not, want to look at is how much of (y)our Federal Defense R&D funds are being used to research and design commercial applications for sale back to the both the Defense Department and U.S.

        The Good New is, of course, that with every war we fight, we are getting back “priceless” medical knowledge about the human body, and how (most expensively?) to repair it.

        You do see, do you not, that “R&D” really means “Repair (some of) U.S.” and “Destroy (all of) Them” – at a “reasonable cost”.

  11. Petey B.

    Great article!
    Further proof that the Democratic party needs to die a complete and permanent death as an organization. Ideally at the same time as the Republican party, but what the heck. Cut’em both down in the public mind every chance you get.

  12. Nik Kondratieff

    Here’s a neat research tool that will help uncover many of the interlocks between corporate and government.

    Look up the map for the Bush admin connections. There are just as many Rs in Revolving door as Ds–well I guess there are more Rs :0

  13. stickyfeet

    In his book, “Voltaire’s Bastards: The Dictatorship of Reason in the West” published 1993, John Ralston Saul addressed this very issue of the revolving door between government and corporations; he included the military in the mix as well. It is a terrific read for today as well.

  14. JGBellHimself

    Yves, may we submit two points for your consideration:

    First, the alienation that created both the Tea Party and the Occupy movements is not all that different. Nor, new.

    Both, now, realize that they have been, and are now being, lied to!

    Too many years ago now, my ex-father-in-law, a born and bred Kansas Republican, was absolutely appalled when he learned the RMilhousN lied to him and the American people. THAT was simply not something that was done – not by the President of U.S., and NOT by any Repubican!

    That was then, this is now.

    But, do you see the difference – RMN lied to retain his power, as President, to DO something for U.S. – like open up China.

    Today, they lie bcuz they are PAID to lie – what about simply does not matter. And, who gets, and how they get, “pucked” (Canadian) is irrelevant.

    Second, the “American Dream”, and our message to the world, was that ALL men (etc) are created “equal”, and every single one of U.S. – and more important, our children – should have an equal opportunity to develop and advance to the fullest extent of our abilities.

    Was not always true, then or ever, but it WAS what America stood for.

    Does anyone, anywhere, still believe that is true?

    The Tea Party does not believe it is. The Occupy Movement does not believe it is.

    If we, in America, know that it is no longer true, what possible reason should we expect that there is anyone else in this world, anywhere, who still believes it?

    And, yet, we assume that we can still tell them, bcuz we know, what is best for them.

    Or, as Timidly Getless will explain to the Chinese:
    “Do as we say you should do…
    not what we are, in fact, doing.”
    {or something like that}

    1. JGBellHimself

      Yves, a minor digression.

      What we – you, Timidly, and U.S. (since W decided to do it) – are doing is trying to force the devaluation of the US dollar in order to force UP exports.

      Who to, we do not really know. But, whatever.

      “Manipulation”, MOG forbid That…!!!
      Saith NOT, saith the Raven.

      What China should – morally, economically, foreign tradely – – and, well…, stupidly – do – is NOT let their currency fall as far and as fast as ours does.

      Bcuz, if they stay with U.S., on the downhill run, they will be able to expand their trade with Europe faster than we will. Is that not what happened? And, they will loose NO market share with U.S.

      Heads they win, tails we don’t.
      And, they get to shake their heads…
      and try not to laugh.

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