American Urban Radio Networks and CNN reporter April Ryan tweeted Friday morning that former attorney general Eric Holder might announce a presidential run in early 2019. Holder has a lot going for him as a primary candidate, including, high name recognition, good relationships with prominent Democratic Party figures like Barack Obama, and a strong record of work on issues like policing reform and voting rights that are important to many Democrats. At the same time, Holder also famously failed to criminally prosecute any individual financial executives for the widespread fraud that caused the 2008 economic collapse—and in his post-Obama life, is a corporate lawyer whose firm works for several notorious corporate entities. Consider some of the clients of the D.C.-based firm Covington & Burling, where Holder is a partner:
• Uber, which hired Holder to investigate and suggest ways to reform its sexist, fratty workplace culture, leading to the so-called “Holder Report” that ultimately helped push company founder Travis Kalanick out of his job. Reforming a toxic culture, of course, is a good thing—but helping Uber executives be nicer to each other at the office doesn’t change the fact that the company’s business model depends on paying low wages to drivers get limited benefits.
• Facebook, which hired a Covington & Burling team led by former Republican Sen. Jon Kyl to advise it about eliminating its alleged liberal bias. Yes, that’s the same Facebook that was overrun by pro-Trump misinformation during the 2016 campaign—and which, just this week, has been publicly defending its practice of letting far-right conspiracy theorists maintain a presence on its platform. (A new BuzzFeed News report even says that CEO Mark Zuckerberg called Trump after the 2016 election to congratulate him for using Facebook so effectively. BuzzFeed also says internal company documents have admiringly described the Trump campaign as a Facebook “innovator.”)
• The NFL, which is employing Covington & Burling to defend itself against claims by Colin Kaepernick and Eric Reid that they have been illegally blackballed from the league by owners acting under political pressure from Trump.
Holder can and likely will argue that merely being a partner at a law firm doesn’t mean you support everything its clients do. (He doesn’t appear to have personally done any work related to Facebook or the NFL’s collusion defense.) His opponents can and definitely will argue that as a partner of a firm with clients like this, he is tacitly supporting (and benefiting financially from) culturally and economically harmful practices. In an election cycle that will likely involve populist issues like single-payer health care and the $15 minimum wage, his candidacy would be a referendum on whether an increasingly progressive Democratic Party can continue to be led by individuals who are members in good standing of the U.S.’s banking-consulting-law industrial complex.
If you think Slate’s election coverage matters…
Support our work: become a Slate Plus member. You’ll get exclusive members-only content and a suite of great benefits—and you’ll help secure Slate’s future.Join Slate Plus