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Whether it’s a rivalry on the sports field or businesses in fierce competition with each other, it is common knowledge that you cannot play both sides.  For bad actors, like consulting giant McKinsey & Company, engaging in work with massive conflicts of interest is of little concern. This is extremely worrisome, especially as McKinsey is reported to be doing business both for the U.S. government and our nation’s biggest foreign adversary, the Chinese Communist Party. Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson, as part of the U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs (HSGAC), realizes the importance of this matter and recently took a stand by voting in favor of the “Time to Choose” Act in a recent committee hearing on the bill.

The “Time to Choose” Act, introduced by Senator Johnson’s colleague, Senator Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), was first put forward in 2022 and reintroduced earlier this year.  This bill would prohibit the Department of Defense and other federal agencies from contracting with firms like McKinsey & Company who are doing business with China’s government or its affiliates. It was reported in the Financial Times in February 2024 that McKinsey led a project called the Urban China Initiative that contributed to China’s “Made in China 2025” industrial plan that led to accelerated Chinese trade abuses and deterioration of U.S.-China relations. More importantly, as part of this plan, McKinsey advised the Chinese Communist Party on how to bolster its military capabilities ahead of a possible future confrontation with the United States. Simply put, this is unacceptable.  

Under the Time to Choose Act, firms like McKinsey that intentionally hide or misrepresent contracts with certain foreign entities would face penalties that might include the termination of federal contracts, debarring relevant firms from future work with the federal government, and requiring violating firms to pay damages equivalent to three times the amount spent by the U.S. government. 

Senator Johnson, as a former chair of the HSGAC, greatly understands the importance of a bill like this as he tries to move it to the Senate floor for a vote. Groups like McKinsey & Company are the perfect example of companies trying to benefit and line their coffers by playing both sides of controversial issues. Another example includes McKinsey raking in money by consulting with companies on how to “turbocharge” sales of dangerous opioids, including Purdue Pharma and the Sackler family, while at the same time working with the Food and Drug Administration, whose task is to regulate these products. McKinsey has already agreed to pay nearly $1 billion to settle investigations into its role in the opioid epidemic, which has contributed to the deaths of over 450,000 people over the past 20 years. The company is even under a new investigation by the Justice Departmentfor this matter.  McKinsey and several other groups also testified to HSGAC that they have worked on behalf of Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fundand other foreign clients who are working to have more influence in the United States. 

Companies that work with government agencies here in the United States should absolutely not be permitted to simultaneously work with some of America’s fiercest rivals.  Conflicts of interest like these are unethical and downright appalling. Fortunately, Senator Johnson remains committed to holding companies like McKinsey & Company accountable and not allowing them to play both sides.  I call on Wisconsin lawmakers to join together in denouncing these dishonest and unpatriotic practices and voice their support for the “Time to Choose” Act.

Marian Krumberger is a resident of Suamico and formerly served as Chair of the Brown County GOP.

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