Brookings Senior Fellows Norm Eisen, Benjamin Wittes, and Richard Reeves were included in Politico Magazine’s annual “50 list” for 2017, which focuses on the “50 ideas blowing up American politics (and the people behind them.)” One of only two think tanks represented in this year’s list, the inclusion of three Brookings experts (up from two in 2016) highlights the important role Brookings—and the big ideas generated here—are playing in shaping the policy landscape in Washington, D.C. and beyond.
Norm Eisen: “Washington’s shadow ethics Czar”
Following the 2016 election, an unlikely and little-known provision of the U.S. Constitution suddenly dominated the news cycle: the Emoluments Clause—designed by the founding fathers as a means of preventing political interference via the form of payment or gifts from foreign governments, became hot topic of debate.
According to Governance Studies senior fellow and former Obama administration ethics lawyer Norm Eisen, the moment President Trump took the oath of office, his vast, global network of business dealings and other conflicts of interest put him in violation of the clause.
A prolific writer, commentator, and lead attorney in two of three major pending corruption cases against the president, Politico credits Eisen for “plac[ing] the emoluments issue front and center in the Trump era… [making] clear that an 18th-century standard still can matter in 2017.”
Watch Norm Eisen explain why Trump’s presidency poses serious ethical concerns:
Benjamin Wittes: “The bard of the Deep State”
As the editor-in-chief of the Lawfare blog, extolled by Politico “as the one-stop shop for making legal sense of the Trump era,” Governance Studies senior fellow Benjamin Wittes has gained acclaim for his no-holds-barred approach to the legal and ethical questions raised by the Trump White House. (He also is known for sharing his analysis frequently—and creatively—with his 175,000+ Twitter followers.)
From his outspoken criticism of Trump’s travel ban to his headline-making disclosure of a conversation he had with former FBI Director James Comey shortly before he was fired, Wittes has “quickly vaulted [Lawfare] from a niche forum on law and national security to a must-read guide to the thorny legal and ethical questions raised by this White House.”
Read more from Wittes on Lawfare, and watch him explore whether Trump can stop the DOJ’s Russia investigation below:
Richard Reeves: “For explaining America’s class warfare”
As a native of Britain, Politico explains that Economic Studies senior fellow Richard Reeves “expected to enter a less class-stratified world when he moved to the United States to work at Brookings.” However, as Reeves describes in his new Amazon best-selling book Dream Hoarders, this was not the case.
Calling upon years of research he conducted as the co-director of the Brookings Center on Children and Families, Reeves argues that America is not the meritocracy than many believe it is, and that it’s actually the top 20 percent (not the 1 percent) who are to blame for widening income gaps in American society. These upper-middle class Americans use their means, connections, and existing policies to hoard a more substantial portion of opportunities than everyone else—and are passing on their privilege to their kids.
Though this idea “might be discomforting to liberals,” Politico notes, the publication praises Reeves for his new approach to income inequality. “To see America this way is to realize that Trump voters weren’t rejecting plutocrats—they elected a billionaire, after all—but rather were pushing against a hereditary professional class, whose values are embodied in the media and the modern Democratic Party.”
Are You a Dream Hoarder? Play the game to find out, and watch Reeves explore his findings: