Kamala Harris asking Wall Street CEOs for advice

Vice President Kamala Harris has frequently sought guidance from well-known Wall Street executives and business leaders as the Biden administration contends with a series of policy challenges at home and abroad, according to a report Wednesday.

The outreach has occurred as Harris seeks to navigate various obstacles, including an ongoing border crisis, supply chain disruptions that have contributed to rising inflation and a Democrat-led push for federal voting rights legislation.

The executives, who include Microsoft president Brad Smith, Citigroup Inc. CEO Jane Fraser and several others, have served as “informal advisers” to Harris, Bloomberg reported. The vice president has spoken with the leaders in a variety of forums, including telephone calls and strategy meetings.

Vice President Kamala Harris has reached out to Microsoft president Brad Smith, among others.
AFP via Getty Images

“The vice president has worked closely with business leaders across a range of issues — and throughout her career she has viewed the business community as an important partner when it comes to getting things done, with speed and impact in mind,” Mike Pyle, an economic adviser to Harris, said in a statement to Bloomberg.

Harris’ close ties to the business community could present a challenge for the Biden administration over time. President Biden and top Democrats are pursuing an antitrust crackdown in multiple sectors and have called for higher taxes on corporations and the wealthiest Americans.

The vice president could also face criticism from the Democratic Party’s progressive wing, whose members are wary of the White House’s dealings with Wall Street.

Cisco Technologies CEO Chuck Robbins
Vice President Kamala Harris has consulted with Cisco Technologies CEO Chuck Robbins about the semiconductor shortage.
Bloomberg via Getty Images

Harris’ dealings with the business leaders purportedly played a key role in the administration’s announcement earlier this month of economic development support for the “Northern Triangle” nations of El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala.

The White House touted $1.2 billion in private-sector commitments in the region, with major firms such as PepsiCo, Mastercard, Microsoft and Nespresso among those involved. The commitments included enhanced job training and new facilities based in Central America.

Harris and other administration officials have argued the economic support is necessary to address the “root causes” of migration from the region.

“I probably started out as somebody who was hopeful but skeptical that this could make a real dent, just because I think the magnitude of the challenge is so great,” Smith told Bloomberg. “But increasingly, I’m optimistic that this is gaining real momentum and will make a real difference.”

Harris is said to have engaged with Cisco Systems CEO Chuck Robbins about ways to address an ongoing semiconductor shortage and supply chain disruptions. Bloomberg reported the two have spoken on multiple occasions since Harris took office on topics ranging from key policy pushes to a simple “sanity check.”

The vice president also spoke with the heads of major banks, including JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon, in an effort to expand access to loans during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Citigroup CEO Jane Fraser
Citigroup CEO Jane Fraser also has been in discussions with the vice president.
AP

Other outreach efforts have proven less successful. Harris has sought from the business world support for Democrat-backed federal voting rights legislation, but Republican lawmakers have managed to block the bills on several occasions in recent months.

In August, Harris met with executives from seven companies, including Microsoft, Chobani and Airbnb, in a bid to rally support for expanded child care programs tabbed for the Biden administration’s social spending agenda. The Build Back Better Act has stalled in the Senate amid opposition from moderate Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia.