Friday, October 29, 2010

As Treasury trashes Elizabeth Warren, do WH apologists still wonder why many of us don't trust this administration?


Here's how Rachel Maddow covered Elizabeth Warren's appointment as special adviser to the president on Sept. 17, with guest (at 5:25) -- Elizabeth Warren! "The reason Barney Frank said this is a pipe dream is, he said, 'The lobbyists always win.' I mean, that's what happens in this town. I was told that over and over and over. All the money is on one side, and in my view, all the hurting was on the other side. I think that the consumer agency is about our trying to change that around, and actually having some success doing it."

"When President Barack Obama named [Elizabeth] Warren to her current post . . . [r]eform advocates were divided by the maneuver. It was either a clever piece of strategy -- allowing Warren to build up her political appeal for confirmation [to head the CFPB] by demonstrating her effectiveness -- or it was an effort to scuttle her away into a powerless role. In either case, reformers promised to keep an eye on any efforts at Treasury to undermine her work."
-- Zach Carter, in a widely noted AlterNet post today,
"Are Treasury's Knives Coming Out Against Elizabeth Warren?"

"[T]here are people who are in government because they are looking to brownnose the industries they are supposed to be regulating so they can get a really high paying lobbyist job after a few years in government. It is very clear that some of the people in Treasury, certainly the people doing these absurd attacks, are in the latter category. . . . What they care about is sucking up to the Wall Street bankers who they hope will give them a sweet job sometime soon."
-- Mike Lux, in a post about the Warren smears (see below)

by Ken

Sure, I noticed that Wednesday NYT piece-about-nothing by Edward Wyatt which purported to report scandalous tidings of one of the people Elizabeth Warren has gathered unto her to assist in her presidentially assigned task of creating the new Consumer Financial Protection Board (CFPB). Was somebody supposed to get excited, I wondered, by the shocking revelation that Ravjeev Date had once worked with "a so-called peer-to-peer lender that operates an online market to match consumers seeking loans with lenders"? The attempted suggestions that he had attempted to improperly influence the developing financial-reform package seemed pretty thin, especially coming -- as I assumed they did -- from the Wall Street elite and the bankster battalions who had devoted hours and dollars and twisted arms and cracked kneecaps beyond counting in their not-vaguely-hypothetical, nor especially well-hidden, efforts to derail or at least defang the pending reforms.

I didn't pay much attention, though. I just figured, well, what do you expect? If it's further proof of the depth of hatred and fear the Wall Street-and-bankster cabal has for Warren, to a lot of us that just bolsters her credibility -- and establishes further why the CFPB is so necessary. True, you wouldn't expect the NYT editors to be signing on to the bankster jihad, but then, are you all that surprised? It's not just at the WSJ that these people have friends in high places.

Since I wasn't paying attention, though, I missed the firestorm the NYT piece created. Again, it's not terribly surprising, but it turns out that the target of that piece, far from being even remotely suspect, is a hero to the people who've been manning the trenches in the struggle for consumer protection. AlterNet's Zach Carter directs us, in the post this morning from which I've quoted up top, to the piece he wrote Wednesday filling us in on Rajeev Date's bona fides:
As the Wall Street overhaul moved through Congress, Date was one of the strongest voices for serious reform. He conducted powerful research demonstrating the need for new safeguards in everything from auto loans to proprietary trading, and advised members of Americans for Financial Reform (disclosure: I joined AFR’s steering committee in August of this year) on just about everything that mattered during the legislative debate.

Date did all of this work for free through the Cambridge Winter Center for Financial Institutions Policy, a pro-reform think-tank that he founded. In fact, Date himself funded many of Cambridge Winter’s operations. The think-tank took on everything, and was universally critical of the Wall Street establishment and regulatory infrastructure that had driven the economy off a cliff. Even better, it proposed concrete solutions to complex problems, and provided detailed, technical financial research to back it all up. . . .

For Wall Street reform advocates, there has been no better resource of thorough, objective research than the work Date produced for Cambridge Winter (on his own dime). But you wouldn’t know any of this from reading the Times story, which portrays Cambridge Winter as some kind of nefarious Wall Street lobbying firm, saying it was “active in the Dodd-Frank debate,” and then noting that Date previously worked for both Capital One and Deutsche Bank.

There's a great deal more detailing what was wrong with the NYT article, and it's all worth reading, but the story has subsequently taken quite a different turn as a series of anti-Warren leaks have been leaked to to the leakiest vessel in the infotainment news fleet, Politico, clearly coming from inside the Treasury Department.

Ooh, that egomaniacal Warren woman is (gasp) having her new office painted!, apparently a first for an incoming officeholder inside the Beltway. Ooh, that vainglorious Warren woman is planning for press coverage!, as if public education to what it's designed to do, and what it's trying to do, wasn't one of the most crucial jobs the CFPB is going to have to undertake -- a job that the Obama administration has almost totally botched, even with the wishy-woshy plans it has come up with to cope with the economic disaster it inherited. (And a job, by the way, for which Warren is well-suited. Many of us were first exposed to her when she began appearing with Rachel Maddow in her capacity as head of the TARP oversight panel, explaining her futile efforts to oversee what was being done in near-total secret.

Here's Zach Carter this morning (link above):
Both of these represent the kind of meaningless, issue-free pseudo-news that serves as Politico’s bread-and-butter. The actual complaints themselves, of course, are preposterous. Warren is painting her office and making media appearances—exactly the sort of things you’d expect the head of a new federal agency to be doing during her first weeks on the job. But look at the frame Treasury is putting on the stories. In both, Warren is portrayed as an ego-centric fluff-monger, not a serious policymaker. Look at fancy Elizabeth Warren painting her office! Our humble boss Timothy Geithner would never do such a thing!

Just days before an election, it’s somewhat astonishing that Treasury officials would be working the media to smear Warren instead of, say, talking about the economy. And it’s certainly counterproductive for Treasury to be creating these distractions for the new, can’t-be-independent-soon-enough agency as it sets out to re-regulate Wall Street.

The attempted smears that obviously track back to Treasury are bad enough -- enough to make one wonder why it is that the person(s) responsible haven't already have been fired. In fact, firing isn't good enough. When word gets out that these individuals, when they had their shot, took action to help perpetuate the megacorporate stranglehold on our finances, it should add $50K-100K to their asking price among the predators bidding for their services.

But where the story becomes interesting is the possibility that Treasury is also the source, or a source, for attempted takedowns like the NYT piece. Zach Carter credits Shahien Nasiripour with suggesting the connection, as reflected in a HuffPost Hill report last night, "Treasury Gunning for Elizabeth Warren?":
The latest leak by Treasury officials against Warren has reform advocates worried. "There's no doubt they're trying to undermine her," one source says. Observers of the new agency also have been scratching their heads about who may have been behind a controversial New York Times story on Wednesday about Elizabeth Warren aide Raj Date. . . .

Says Carter himself:
I had assumed the Times piece was planted by a bank lobbyist looking to hamstring the young agency—until I saw Thursday’s Morning Money, and realized that Treasury people weren’t just griping with reporters on background—they were actively leaking attacks, however childish.

Treasury officials would be making a serious error if they think they can scapegoat Warren in an effort to deflect criticism from the Department’s own very real failings. As Chair of the Congressional Oversight Panel for the Troubled Asset Relief Program, Warren has been highlighting major problems with the Treasury’s foreclosure relief plan for literally years. But Geithner and Treasury have steadfastly refused to change the program, as millions of avoidable foreclosures have rained down on the economy.

You may recall that I had a strong feeling that Elizabeth Warren had roughly zero chance of being tapped to head the CFPB, and not because of questions about her confirmability. To me the question was always her nominatability by an administration filled with people who hate her, for both ideological and personal reasons. (She surely didn't endear herself to future Treasury Sec'y "Tiny Tim" Geithner when she made a fool of him in attempting, as TARP overseer, to extract actual information about TARP activity.) Surely it was only out of the direst political necessity that Warren was offered her vaguely defined role, under conditions that Zach Carter describes neatly in that opening quote.

Warren herself seems only too aware that boobytraps of all sorts abound in this financial-services jungle she first imagined the CFPB to try to cut our way through. The Dow Jones Newswires carried a report called "Consumer Agency Still Not 'Secure' Amid Opponents - Warren" based on a press conference she held.
In response to a question from a reporter, she said the CFPB "does not have a secure place" given that it has enemies in both the political and financial world.

Warren noted that some politicians have said they'd like to restrict the agency's power.

The bureau is "certainly part of the political mix," she said.

As with every other kind of reform to which candidate Barack Obama paid lip service, it has come to seem increasingly clear that President Obama wants reform of the financial services industry only insofar as it suits the convenience of the financial services industry." One would like to think he's noticed, about when they turned on him the first time they didn't get everything they wanted, you can't do business with them unless you give them everything they want, especially when there are people like Sen. "Miss Mitch" McConnell and Rep. "Sunny John" Boehner not only ready, willing, and able but positively eager to promise them whatever they want.

As I say, one would think to think the president has noticed, and recalibrated his thinking -- because we know what those other people working so hard to bring him down will do. One would like to think that, but one isn't optimistic.


Our friend Mike Lux, the progressive activist and veteran of the Clinton White House whose book The Progressive Revolution: How the Best in America Came to Be has been a favorite source of information and inspiration for Howie in this space, has a great post up, also taking off from Zach Carter's post this morning. He stresses that there are people in the White House working hard for the things progressives believe in, and points out that "not everyone in the administration is on the same team." He targets the Treasury talkers, and after registering shock at the smearing of Rajeev Date writes:
As to the office paint job leak, it is just laughable: I was over at Elizabeth's very plain office in the standard government building where she is spending 95% of her time, and she hasn't even taken the time to put a picture on the wall. She is a frugal, modest Oklahoman who is so driven by the work that she probably wouldn't even notice if someone repainted her office. And the media hound charge is just funny: senior White House officials told me weeks ago that they wanted Elizabeth to be as visible as possible in the final days before the election because she is a strong voice for the middle class. Literally all the media bookings for her have come at the request of the White House communications shop.

I have always told people that working in the Clinton White House, I met some of the best people I have ever known and some of the worst. There are people who are in government for all the right reasons, because they want to make the country a better place and really help improve the lives of regular people. Elizabeth Warren is one of the very best of that group. And there are people who are in government because they are looking to brownnose the industries they are supposed to be regulating so they can get a really high paying lobbyist job after a few years in government. It is very clear that some of the people in Treasury, certainly the people doing these absurd attacks, are in the latter category. They don't care about screwing over the President and the Democratic Party in the days before the election, and they certainly don't care about helping consumers. What they care about is sucking up to the Wall Street bankers who they hope will give them a sweet job sometime soon.

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At 4:51 AM, Blogger Tom said...

OMG, EW made $100,000 in 2 years advising bankruptcy issues? I've been in a few Ch. 11 proceedings over the years and many high profile attorneys in the field regularly bill over 2,000 hours a year at rates in excess of $
Warren got $100,000 in 2 years and guys like Jamie Spreyregen make more than $1.5 million/yr.
Do reporters just not have a sense of scale or do they leave scale out of the picture on purpose? Okay, okay, just asking.


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