Data for Progress added more cabinet recommendations - after they were already picked

The think tank added Yellen and Becerra to their list after Biden announced them for his cabinet.

Several days after President-elect Joe Biden announced the nominations of Janet Yellen and Xavier Becerra to his cabinet, Data for Progress added them to their Progressive Cabinet Project list of “Potential Secretaries.”

The edits are just the latest of several nominees who, after they became frontrunners, were belatedly added to the PCP’s recommendations. These, however, are the first to appear on the list after they were actually nominated.

News broke on November 23rd that Biden would nominate Yellen as Treasury Secretary, and on December 6th that he would nominate Becerra for Health and Human Services. But neither appeared on the PCP as recently as December 9th, according to archive.org.

Sometime after that, DFP added both to a new version of the document. It first appears on archive.org on December 18th, though document metadata indicates that it was created on December 11th.

DFP has promoted the PCP as “a list of suitable names” written for the purpose of “shaping a progressive administration,” helping “Joe Biden’s team curate the most progressive administration in history.” But the recent additions suggest just the opposite: that Biden’s selections are shaping the list, dictating who DFP will declare to be “progressive”.

It’s worth noting that this new version also appeared after this blog first reported on December 8th that HUD nominee Marcia Fudge had been added to the PCP long after she became a frontrunner for the position. It also likely appeared after we noted the similar belated addition of Katherine Tai for trade.

Given the brazenness of the Yellen and Becerra additions, it’s tempting to suspect that DFP is trying to rebrand their list as a kind of living document.

But this is difficult to square with the fact that the PCP was a static document for the first four-and-a-half months of its existence; with the fact that its primary author bragged about one of their belated additions as if it wasn’t belated; and with the generally covert nature of these edits, to the point that DFP actually removed the document’s cover date and the page numbers from its table of contents. (Discrepancies between the table of contents and the document’s actual pagination drew attention to the addition of new recommendations.)

And more to the point, it’s difficult to square with the PCP’s explicit purpose. How is their list “shaping” anything when it’s being updated after Biden has made his decision?

UPDATE: A reader notes that DFP has added a brief disclaimer to the end of the Yellen and Becerra nominations noting that that the candidate’s “name was not included in the original list. Nevertheless, [his/her] choice for the position by Biden is a welcome one…”

This is consistent with the suspicion that they are trying to rebrand the PCP as a kind of living document. Nevertheless, the same objection holds: these additions simply do not make sense given the project’s stated purpose and the way that DFP has promoted it. These disclaimers also prompt the question: why weren’t they included for any of the other additions that were not included in the original list, including Fudge and Tai?