Politics

Top Biden aide Ricchetti will be a White House liaison for Congress and business community

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Key Points
  • Several people told CNBC that the expectation is for Steve Ricchetti to play a similar role as Valerie Jarrett did when she was President Barack Obama's senior advisor.
  • During the campaign, Ricchetti had a similar role to his likely upcoming position in Biden's administration.
U.S. President-elect Joe Biden speaks during an online video meeting with members of the National Governors Association (NGA) executive committee in Wilmington, Delaware, November 19, 2020.
Tom Brenner | Reuters

President-elect Joe Biden's team has signaled to congressional and corporate leaders that incoming White House advisor Steve Ricchetti will be one of their points of contact in the new administration.

Biden's advisors have told lawmakers and business leaders that Ricchetti will be a key liaison as they seek to make inroads with the new administration, according to people briefed on the matter. Ricchetti, a longtime Biden confidant, was recently named counselor to the president and has served as the Biden campaign's chairman.

Several people said that Ricchetti is expected to play a similar role as Valerie Jarrett did while she was President Barack Obama's senior advisor. Jarrett would reach out to business leaders to gauge them on Obama's policies.

"What I hear from the business community all the time is that they want a strong economy. That's a goal that the president shares," Jarrett told Politico in 2010, even as Obama was taking aim at some of the nations largest financial institutions.

Ricchetti's position will involve working with Rep. Cedric Richmond, D-La., who, beyond his role as senior advisor, will also be the director of the White House Office of Public Engagement, according to another person familiar with the matter. Richmond is expected to be the lead business liaison for Biden's administration, Politico reports.

Ricchetti's portfolio will also include working with Louisa Terrell, Biden's White House director of legislative affairs, this person added.

Ricchetti's extensive experience in Washington as Biden's former chief of staff and as chairman of the campaign, where he engaged with Wall Street executives and labor leaders, among many other groups, gives him the advantage of knowing several influential players who could help incoming administration.

Still, progressive groups have been critical of Ricchetti, who was also once a lobbyist.

NBC News reported last week that Demand Progress and other progressive organizations launched a website with a petition calling on corporate leaders to be excluded from Biden's administration. Ricchetti is one of the names on their list of "most concerning corporate insiders trying to get into the Biden administration."

Ron Klain, Biden's chief of staff, said that the president-elect will announce some Cabinet members on Tuesday. Biden announced key additional to his national security team on Monday.

Ricchetti and a spokesman for the transition did not return a request for comment.

During the campaign, Ricchetti had a similar role to his likely upcoming position in Biden's administration. He met with Wall Street executives in January to rally their support for Biden. An ally of Ricchetti's is reaching out to executives to discuss ideas for possible private sector funding for Biden's extensive infrastructure proposals, according to a person familiar with the matter.

Those who declined to be named in this story did so in order to speak freely. The person familiar with the ally working on an outside effort to get the pulse of the business community on infrastructure reform declined to be named because the effort is still ongoing.

Biden released a $1.3 trillion infrastructure plan late last year. The proposal includes restoring highways, roads and bridges, while trying to spur further adoption of electric vehicles and trains. While Democrat and Republican lawmakers have both expressed interest in passing an infrastructure bill, there have often been debates on how to pay for it.

Some executives have already started encouraging Biden to move ahead with some form of an infrastructure package.

Bob Swan, the CEO of Intel, suggested that Biden's administration should focus in part on digital infrastructure investment.

"Widespread deployment of advanced 5G telecommunications networks will fuel efficiencies for businesses in all industries and enable more U.S. innovation." Swan said in an open letter published Monday. "Upgrades to our infrastructure must not only handle the technology of today but spur domestic development of the technologies of tomorrow."

Many business lobbying groups, such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, have included infrastructure reform as part of what they hope to work on with a Biden administration. The Business Roundtable has expressed interest in engaging with a Biden White House on removing tariffs implemented by President Donald Trump's administration. Another round of coronavirus stimulus is the top priority for both groups.

Outside of policy proposals, CEOs are rallying around Biden as the president-elect while Trump continues to fight the election results. A group of over 160 New York business leaders wrote an open letter to the Trump administration, demanding that the General Services Administration certify the election.

Those who signed include BlackRock CEO Larry Fink, Goldman Sachs CEO David Solomon, Blackstone President Jon Gray, Lazard CEO Kenneth Jacobs, and Blair Effron, the co-founder of Centerview Partners.

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