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Tipsheet

Kamala Harris Isn't the Only Toxic Figure in the Biden Administration

AP Photo/Stephen Dunn

The stories that Kamala Harris is terrible, and her work environment is toxic are numerous. They could reach the highest point of Mount Kilimanjaro. It wasn’t just a fluke story regarding how her 2020 campaign was a total and complete mess. It was rudderless. She brought those bad habits with her into the vice president’s office where the lack of discipline, which hamstrung her presidential efforts, became evident within the first few months of the administration. Right now, most of her top staffers are gone. She’s been quite the punching bag for the media concerning incompetence and overall unpleasantness when it comes to staffers and working for this administration.  She now has some company. It’s not the most exciting of office but the Federal Trade Commission under Lina Khan appears to be another area where there’s a mass staff exodus.

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Biden picking Khan was given high marks by the progressive left, but the 33-year-old’s management style has come under intense scrutiny. The staff exodus has created fears of a brain drain at the agency. Khan’s been labeled “abusive” and a “tyrant.” She reportedly eschews advice from longtime staffers. Overall, respect for the agency’s senior staffers plunged (via NY Post):

Progressives thought they had their dream pick to lead the Federal Trade Commission last year when President Biden nominated Lina Khan — but her management style is leading to staff discontent and risks derailing her ambitions, The Post has learned. 

Khan, who made a name for herself as a wunderkind legal scholar and critic of Amazon prior to her Elizabeth Warren-backed confirmation as FTC Chair in June 2021, has promised to aggressively fight monopolies in the tech space and elsewhere.

Yet sources close to the agency, which has a mandate to enforce antitrust law and protect consumers, say that academic brilliance doesn’t necessarily translate into management ability — and that its 33-year-old leader’s inexperience has longtime staffers at the 1,100-person agency heading for the exits.

[…]

“They’ve put her in this position of running an important federal agency when she has zero experience doing this kind of thing,” Eileen Harrington, a former executive director of the FTC who spent 27 years at the agency, told The Post. “She’s a rising star who’s been thrown off the deep end.”

Staffers gripe that Khan meets with rank-and-file employees far less frequently than previous FTC chairs — and is perceived as favoring likeminded law professors over experienced litigators and staffers who understand the nitty-gritty details of running a federal agency.

Harrington, a self-described Democrat, said she started receiving distressing calls from friends at the agency shortly after Khan took the reins last year. Khan took far longer to introduce herself to staff than previous chairs and had a dismissive attitude toward career employees, sources close to the agency said. 

“People were devastated that all they were getting from the chair’s office was criticism, refusal to engage,” Harrington said, adding that some called Khan “abusive” and a “tyrant.” 

“They started quitting,” she said.

[…]

The discontent isn’t limited to managers. An internal survey showed that the percentage of staffers across the entire agency who have a “high level of respect” for the the agency’s senior leaders nosedived from 83% in 2020 to 49% in 2021, as first reported by The Information in April. 

Following the release of the poll, Khan rolled back a ban on public speaking that had angered employees — and her chief of staff apologized for making “people feel like they do not have our trust and respect,” according to the outlet. Staffers grumbled that the mea culpa came just before the Office of Personnel Management began sending out the 2022 edition of the morale survey.

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What a mess. Again, it’s maybe not on the scale of Harris’ toxic waste dump that is her office, but it’s yet another sore spot for an administration that prided itself in declaring that competence was back, that the adults were in charge. Not the case, especially at the FTC where Khan has zero experience running an agency with 1,000-plus staff. It’s always the person with the best qualifications for the job. That obviously wasn’t taken into account here.

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