Biden Taps Liberal Billionaire's Acolyte for Top Econ. Job

Incoming Biden adviser's last project said capitalism 'fundamentally broken'

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December 21, 2020

President-elect Joe Biden announced Monday that he will appoint Joelle Gamble, who previously worked as a principal at the social-change investment firm funded by liberal billionaire Pierre Omidyar, as a top economic adviser.

Gamble, who left her role at the Omidyar Network (ON) to work on domestic economic policy for the Biden-Harris transition team, will serve as special assistant to the president for economic policy, a job on the National Economic Council.

That role may be informed by her previous work as a principal at the network's "reimagining capitalism" project, an Elizabeth Warren-esque endeavor that maintains that "capitalism can still be a powerful force for good" but that "the current form of capitalism is fundamentally broken."

Gamble's appointment means that an economic progressive will have the president's ear as he seeks to revitalize the post-COVID economy. It also forges a connection between the Biden administration and Omidyar, who has funneled millions to left-leaning activist groups, including those run by other Biden appointees, and is a major funder of groups opposed to President Donald Trump.

Neither the Biden Transition Team nor the Omidyar Network responded to requests for comment.

Gamble joined the Omidyar Network last June, following her graduation from Princeton's graduate program in economics. In that role, she was a frequent public commentator on what she saw as the injustices and inequities of capitalism, writing in the left-wing magazine Dissent, for example, that "our measure of economic security is based on white economic security." Reporting her involvement with the Biden transition in October, the Washington Examiner described her as "represent[ing] the left wing of the Democratic Party within Biden's economic team."

She honed those positions at ON, a social-change investor that operates as both an LLC and a 501(c)3 nonprofit, allowing it to invest in both for-profit and non-profit ventures.

ON operates several major projects across its portfolio of over $100 million in outstanding grants. That includes Gamble's "reimagining capitalism," which aims to restructure capitalist society around principles that include "an explicitly anti-racist and inclusive economy" and "rebalanc[ing] the relationship between markets, governments, and communities."

Under that aegis, "reimagining capitalism" has given grants to a number of influential left-leaning groups, including those with connections to the incoming administration. Contributions include $500,000 to the Roosevelt Institute, where Gamble worked for five years before matriculating at Princeton, as well as $700,000 to the Center for American Progress, run by Biden OMB nominee Neera Tanden, and $1.5 million to the Washington Center for Equitable Growth, led by Heather Boushey, a Biden nominee to serve on the Council of Economic Advisers.

The whole affair is funded by eBay cofounder Pierre Omidyar, whose net worth Forbes estimates to be in excess of $20 billion. Omidyar is one of a group of Silicon Valley billionaires who have increasingly flexed their financial muscle in the political arena since Donald Trump's ascent to the presidency.

ON is not Omidyar's only charitable venture. Through Democracy Fund Voice, he has given extensively to activist groups including the Proteus Action League, Sixteen Thirty Fund, and the Tides Foundation, the primary sponsor of Black Lives Matter. He also has a history of financial support for Democrats, including generous donations to the DSCC and DCCC in the early 2000s and contributions to both Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) and then-senator Harry Reid (D., Nev.) in 2008. His media company, First Look Media, is the primary backer of the left-wing investigative outlet The Intercept.

Omidyar has also been a generous backer specifically of opponents of Trump. He was the primary funder of NeverTrump PAC, later Never Means Never PAC, dropping $250,000 over the 2016 cycle. He also backed the anti-Trump "Not Who We Are" PAC, alongside fellow Silicon Valley billionaires Dustin Moskovitz, Cari Tuna, and Christopher Hughes. Through Democracy Fund Voice, he has given over half-a-million dollars to support Stand Up Republic, a group that organizes Republicans critical of the president.

Techies like Omidyar have flocked to Biden, with a Wired investigation finding that 95 percent of contributions from tech employees went to the Democratic nominee. They are in turn already enjoying outsized influence in the transition, which has drawn on Silicon Valley to staff its teams. Gamble's appointment extends these connections from the office to the network of charitable groups funded by top tech execs, further entwining the Biden administration with their wealth.