White House adviser to be nominated for top job at MCC

Sean Cairncross has been nominated to lead the Millennium Challenge Corporation. Photo by: St. Paul Academy and Summit School

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration has named its nominee to lead the Millennium Challenge Corporation.

The administration plans to nominate top White House official Sean Cairncross to the post, the White House said on Thursday, according to political website The Hill. MCC is an independent United States aid agency that provides grants to promote economic growth, poverty reduction, and good governance. The agency works in 26 countries with a combined population of about 118 million people living on less than $1.90 per day, according to MCC.

Cairncross, deputy assistant to the president and senior adviser to White House chief of staff, is a lawyer who has had a long history of working for the Republican Party. He has served as the chief operating officer of the Republican National Committee and deputy executive director and general counsel to the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

Cairncross appears to have little prior experience working on global development issues, which comes in contrast to some of the administration’s other picks for top aid posts, including Mark Green at the U.S. Agency for International Development, and Josephine Olsen, who was nominated to be the next Peace Corps chief earlier this week.

However, this is not the first time a similar situation occurred: Ray Washburne, chief executive officer of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, previously served as vice chairman of the Trump Victory Committee and chair of the transition’s commerce team, and possessed little international experience. Washburne is now helping lead a push to expand the U.S. development finance capabilities.

In its 2018 budget, the administration recommended that MCC receive $800 million in funding, down from about $900 million in 2017, which would be the lowest level in its 15 year history if approved. MCC has historically enjoyed bipartisan support on Capitol Hill, where its model is often praised for improving accountability.

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  • Saldiner adva

    Adva Saldinger

    Adva Saldinger is an Associate Editor at Devex, where she covers the intersection of business and international development, as well as U.S. foreign aid policy. From partnerships to trade and social entrepreneurship to impact investing, Adva explores the role the private sector and private capital play in development. A journalist with more than 10 years of experience, she has worked at several newspapers in the U.S. and lived in both Ghana and South Africa.