The Obama administration has mastered the art of the Friday Night Disclosure. They tried to avoid media scrutiny over the revelation that National Economic Council chair Lawrence Summers made millions from the same people demonized by Barack Obama and the Democrats for the economic collapse:
Lawrence Summers, director of President Barack Obama’s National Economic Council, earned millions working at a hedge fund and speaking to banks such as Citigroup Inc. that later received taxpayer bailout money.
Hedge fund D.E. Shaw & Co. paid Summers more than $5 million in salary and other compensation in the past 16 months, according to a financial disclosure form released by the White House yesterday. Summers served as a managing director at the New York-based firm. Summers, a former Treasury secretary, also earned more than $2.7 million in speaking fees.
“There was considerable interest in hearing his economic insights,” said Ben LaBolt, a White House spokesman. At the White House, Summers “has been at the forefront of this administration’s work to shore up our nation’s financial system and to put in place a regulatory framework that will strengthen the financial system,” LaBolt said.
The disclosure statement for Summers and several other top administration officials illustrates the quandary Obama and his predecessors have faced in their personnel decisions because “powerful people are almost always also rich people” who have earned money from private interests, said Steffen Schmidt, a political science professor at Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa.
Obama’s “choice going forward is to choose unknowns of modest means who may be less controversial in terms of their connections,” Schmidt said. “Except those people would be far less knowledgeable and thus less of an asset to fix these very same urgent problems.”
You know, the same argument could be made with, oh, AIG and the people they need to retain to fix their problems. I don’t really have a problem with Obama hiring Summers; in fact, I think Summers would have made a much better choice than Tim Geithner as Treasury Secretary. Unfortunately, Obama didn’t have the guts to face the flak over the silly controversy Summers inadvertently stoked at Harvard a few years back.
However, the Obama administration appears to want to eat their cake and have it, too. They spent the last few weeks stoking outrage over retention bonuses that had been clearly disclosed months ago, and which went to people AIG needs to unwind their Financial Products division. It’s completely hypocritical.
So is the Friday Night Disclosure, as Tommy Christopher points out:
The White House did a Friday left-cheek sneak yesterday, announcing that Executive Branch Financial Disclosure reports are now available through an online ordering process. Making hay out of these reports is the nature of the beast in politics, and by dumping them on a Friday, they blunt the impact of criticisms like this …
It also makes a joke out of claims to “transparency”, but the Friday Night Disclosure has a long and bipartisan tradition. It’s not much Hope and Change, though, and Obama promised to stop doing business as usual during his campaign.