Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Will Hillary Be The Official Candidate Of The Wall Street Plutocrats?


Hillary fans have been grumbling to me about the way I highlighted Mike Lofgren's phrase stuck on awful for the next decade to equate Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush. Rather than defend myself in a series of emails, I figured I'd say a few words about it, or around it, here at DWT, if you don't mind.

The worst thing-- the most ugly and dysfunctional thing-- about running for office in our democracy is that politicians have to spend most of their time on the phone personally begging campaign donors for money-- hours and hours a day, every day. So when a money machine like Bill Clinton-- and there aren't many like him-- agrees to help raise campaign cash for you, it's a godsend. It's hours of humiliating, frustrating calls you don't have to make in the life and death struggle for political survival. Tuesday, Maryland Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown had that loving' feeling as Bill Clinton announced 1- and endorsement and 2- that he'd be in Maryland in May to help him raise money.

Tomorrow he'll be in Philly raising money for, as ABC News indelicately termed it, "Chelsea Clinton’s scandal-plagued mother-in-law, Marjorie Margolies."
With the May 20 primary just six weeks away, Margolies will welcome President Clinton to the district for a fundraiser this Thursday. For $1,000, donors can attend an hors d’oeuvres reception and hear Clinton’s remarks. A little bit more-- $5000-- buys a private VIP reception and photo opportunity with Clinton. The event is not open to the public without a donation.
I can't find the photos of me and Clinton, one at a identical VIP reception and one at a state banquet at the White House-- although I know they're around here somewhere. I was so fat both times, I don't keep them handy. I always liked Clinton, not politically, of course-- way too corporate for me-- but personally. What a charming, fun guy! He always want dot talk about music and loved so many of the artists on my label, especially Joni Mitchell, Stevie Nicks and kd lang. But he asked me to bring Lou Reed to a state dinner in honor of Lou Reed fanatic-- and Czech President Vaclav Havel. How could you not overlook stuff like the passage of NAFTA, the gutting of Glass-Steagall, welfare "reform," Rwanda, the special dispensation for Australian neo-nazi Rupert Murdoch to own American mass media, DOMA and Don't Ask, Don't Tell? And Robert Rubin, as bad as any Treasury Secretary any Republican could ever appoint? And Rahm.

Last May, Clinton was in Los Angeles campaigning and raising money for corrupt corporate careerist nightmare Wendy Greuel in her vicious-- and doomed-- race against Eric Garcetti. Clinton allies financed one of the ugly smear campaigns against Garcetti that backfired so beautifully and elected him mayor. Yes, Clinton's endorsement of the hideous Greuel was supposed to win her the election, but it didn't. Clinton almost always backs the worst possible candidate in Democratic primaries. If you don't know who the candidates are and you hear Bill Clinton is backing one, you can almost be 100% certain that candidate is a corrupt corporate hack. Almost 100%.

Never mind that both Anthony Brown in Maryland and Marjorie Margolies in Pennsylvania-- two more-of-the-same, garden variety hacks, have opponents, respectively Heather Mizeur and Daylin Leach, who are far better candidates and would make extraordinary, possibly transformative, leaders. Clinton isn't looking for extraordinary transformative leaders. In fact, leaders isn't ever what he's pumping for-- followers, in fact, is what he wants… zombies who will be cogs in the Clinton Machine.

Late last year Politico assigned reporters Ben White and Maggie Haberman to take at look at why the Wall Street plutocrats are grumbling ominously about both Obama and the Republicans-- and why so many of their warm remembrances of Bill Clinton are likely to help finance Hillary's run for the presidency. At a fat cat shindig Goldman Sachs put on for Hillary at the Conrad Hotel, she "offered a message that the collected plutocrats found reassuring, according to accounts offered by several attendees, declaring that the banker-bashing so popular within both political parties was unproductive and indeed foolish. Striking a soothing note on the global financial crisis, she told the audience, in effect: We all got into this mess together, and we’re all going to have to work together to get out of it. What the bankers heard her to say was just what they would hope for from a prospective presidential candidate: Beating up the finance industry isn’t going to improve the economy-- it needs to stop. And indeed Goldman’s Tim O’Neill, who heads the bank’s asset management business, introduced Clinton by saying how courageous she was for speaking at the bank. (Brave, perhaps, but also well-compensated: Clinton’s minimum fee for paid remarks is $200,000)." One thing that was clear, Hillary Clinton is not Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders or Sherrod Brown, the kinds of senators who will hold them accountable for their avaricious and predatory systematic criminality. Before we start swimming around in this ugly swamp, here's a treat-- the brand new Rick Weiland 30 second spot for his populist campaign for the open South Dakota Senate seat:

To say Wall Street’s initial rosy expectations for its relationship with Barack Obama were dashed would be an understatement. Finance executives--a donor demographic traditionally loaded with Republicans who factored heavily in propelling George W. Bush into the White House-- gave Obama twice as much financial support in 2008 as they did his opponent, GOP Sen. John McCain. Obama established his prowess as a Wall Street fundraiser early in his battle for the Democratic nomination against the well-connected Clinton by cementing a relationship with Blair Effron, a young banker who bundled more than $200,000 for Obama. Effron was first invited into the Obama donor fold by the legendary investor and Democratic philanthropist George Soros in December 2006, when then-Senator Obama was on the verge of launching a presidential campaign.

Obama also secured help from investment executives who had not previously been a part of the Democratic money world-- csupporters like Mark Gallogly, the founder of the private equity firm Centerbridge Partners who inspired a slew of other new donors (“They all saw themselves in [Gallogly],” recalls a Democratic source involved in Obama’s fundraising efforts). Other backers had tough choices to make. For instance, Orin Kramer, the hedge fund manager and head of Boston Providence, had long-established ties to the Clintons. But he went with Obama instead.

In many ways, Obama’s fundraising team was helped by the fact that Clinton already had such a full roster of powerful backers. “In 2007, the Clinton table was set and full. So there were a lot of guys who’d made money between 2000 and 2007 who wanted to play [in politics], and there was no room for them,” says one Democratic source who was involved in Obama’s 2008 fundraising. “We offered this very sexy, very cool alternative for people to have a seat at the table.”

When financial markets crashed just prior to his election, Obama’s cadre of Wall Street supporters expected their donations had earned for them a measure of understanding from the White House. And in keeping with the practice of both the Bill Clinton and George W. Bush years, the finance executives also felt entitled to at least a couple of significant administration jobs going to one of their own-- not to mention fairly regular access to the president, either via White House visits or get-togethers in New York. After all, they had important policy recommendations to make on everything from financial reform to deficit reduction to trade policy and immigration; previous administrations had a record of being very interested in their views. But under Obama, very little of this happened. “It’s not that there weren’t any meetings. It’s just that nothing ever happened after the meetings, and people fell out of love,” said one senior Wall Street banker who gave to the Obama campaign in 2008 and attended many of the early confabs.

Disillusionment set in quickly as Obama’s disdain for extensive relationships with the Wall Street wealthy became clear. He had no use for the niceties and glad-handing that Bill Clinton elevated to an art form, aided by a Treasury secretary, Robert Rubin, who came straight to the job from Goldman Sachs and his role as Clinton’s top Wall Street rainmaker. One senior Wall Street executive says his realization that the financial industry under Obama would instead become a regular punching bag dates to a meeting in early 2009 with then-White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel. According to this executive, Emanuel told an assembled group of financiers that the administration did not plan to “waste” the financial crisis-- a common refrain of his in public and private-- and would push for the strongest Wall Street reform measures possible, including having the White House respond swiftly and brutally to any industry efforts to water down the final product.

“I knew right at that moment, standing in Rahm’s office, that they did not really have any interest in understanding Wall Street or working with us in any significant way,” says the executive, who, like most interviewed for this article, spoke on condition that they not be identified by name or by firm to avoid possible political retribution.

Despite Emanuel’s own foray in banking (he earned more than $18 million in a two-and-a-half year stint as a managing director in the investment firm Wasserstein Perella) there was a prevailing sense among these Wall Street Democrats that nobody in the White House understood the industry. Bankers could certainly present their arguments to first-term Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, whom many knew from Geithner’s tenure as head of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, but they believed that was as much of a hearing as they would get. “Tim was someone everyone knew and could talk to, but beyond him it’s fair to say the business community was uniquely without influence,” one senior Wall Street executive says of the early days of the Obama administration. And besides, while Geithner had deep relationships on Wall Street and pushed Obama hard to follow through on the Bush-initiated Wall Street bailout, he also worked hard to push tough financial reform and was not inclined to be seen as going soft on banks receiving those huge federal checks.

Elsewhere in the New York investment community, private equity and hedge fund officials who had backed Obama quickly and publicly turned on him over White House attempts to raise the tax rates on their investment returns and their profits from sales on investment management partnerships. They argued they were being targeted unfairly.

Instead of turning to an insider like Bill Clinton had with Rubin, Obama put his close friend and senior advisor Valerie Jarrett in charge of managing relationships with Wall Street and corporate America more broadly. From the start, the feeling across the financial industry was that while Jarrett, a Chicago businesswoman and attorney, was smart and friendly and for the most part accessible. But she knew almost nothing about how the banking and finance industry worked and was interested only in pushing the administration’s agenda, rather than engaging in any kind of dialogue about how to foster better economic growth in the wake of the financial crisis.

…[T]he president’s Wall Street donor class felt stung again in September 2010, when Obama appeared on 60 Minutes and doubled down on his disdain for the rich guys, saying he “did not run for office to be helping out a bunch of fat cat bankers on Wall Street.” Obama said “nothing had been more frustrating to him” than to “salvage a financial system at great expense to taxpayers” from a calamity “that was caused in part by completely irresponsible actions on Wall Street.” What’s more, he thundered, “People on Wall Street still don’t get it.”

Many in the financial sector saw the interview as the end of their relationship with the Obama administration. “The ‘fat cat’ and ‘throw everyone in jail’ stuff pretty much did it,” says one executive who later supported Mitt Romney. The White House was never inclined to apologize. “Sure, the rhetoric got hot,” one administration official who worked with the financial industry told us. “We were trying to pass financial reform, and they didn’t want it.”

The disappointment in the White House wasn’t just politics; it was personal, adds one senior Wall Street banker who had supported Obama: “A lot of people began to feel attacked and singled out in inappropriate ways they did not feel were fair.” The sour feelings festered through the 2012 campaign, when Wall Street all but abandoned Obama, pouring more than $20 million into Romney’s failed effort, compared with the $6 million the president got.

…Ordinarily such dissatisfaction with one political party would redound to the benefit of the other. But Wall Street donors have been equally turned off by the GOP for much of 2013. Even when Romney, a corporate executive like them, ran for president in 2012, he failed to earn the adoration of the donors who twice had helped propel Bush to the White House. Romney was, in the words of one former Bush campaign bundler, “the worst messenger in the world. … I can’t believe the shit that comes out of his mouth.”

Even before he’d lost the 2012 presidential election (indeed, even before he’d won his party’s nomination), Romney was thought of as a bad bet by some on Wall Street, who were instead falling fast for New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie-- the candidate with the best chances at winning the support of bankers in the next presidential election. In July 2011, Christie ventured across the Hudson to the exclusive Racquet and Tennis Club on Park Avenue in Manhattan, where he found roughly 40 of New York’s wealthiest men waiting for him.

The meeting, called by club member and Home Depot co-founder Ken Langone, was held in a private wood-paneled dining room and stuffed with eager business leaders urging Christie to jump into the 2012 race. The disembodied voice of David Koch, the co-owner of Koch Industries and a major GOP benefactor, was piped into the room by conference call, as was that of hedge funder Paul Singer, the CEO of Elliott Management, an attendee told Politico Magazine. Henry Kissinger, the former secretary of state, stood and pleaded with the governor to enter the presidential race for the good of his country. Christie would, of course, resist their pleas, becoming perhaps even more alluring to those on Wall Street as a prospect for 2016.

…But a shift back to Wall Street’s historic Republican roots is by no means a given, especially if the Democratic nominee is local favorite Hillary Clinton-- and the former New York senator has been shrewdly tending to would-be donors for much of the last year, whether in the form of speaking engagements like the one at Goldman this fall, or by glad-handing as she helps to raise $250 million for her family’s foundation. Lasry, fresh off a fundraising tour of duty on the Terry McAuliffe campaign for governor in Virginia, figures to be a critical component of an expected Clinton run; he is described as a likely contender to fill the role of Clinton’s 2016 campaign chairman, McAuliffe’s post in her 2008 bid.

The worry on Wall Street is about how far to the left Clinton might have to drift to appease what’s been proclaimed the “Warren wing of the Democratic Party”-- the vocal populists buoyed by Elizabeth Warren’s tough critiques of Wall Street greed, as well as by the recent election of liberal Mayor Bill de Blasio on their New York home turf. According to people in Clinton’s extended circle, John Podesta-- the former White House chief of staff under her husband who this week joined the Obama White House for a year-long stint-- was poised to work with Hillary Clinton on her messaging on income inequality, a role he seems less likely to fill while he's in government. Still, some say fears that Clinton will end up alienating financial sector donors the way Obama has, even if she tacks left, are overblown. “Wall Street folks are so happy about [having Clinton run] that they won’t care what she says,” says one well-placed Democrat.

And if the banking class is delighted with Clinton lately, the feeling appears mutual. In Manhattan last week, Clinton sat down with the Carlyle Group’s David Rubenstein for their second question-and-answer session in the last two months. Unlike the first one, held for his private equity firm’s investor conference, this was a more public appearance, part of a program honoring the late diplomat Richard Holbrooke at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Clinton easily regaled the well-heeled crowd with stories from her past before Rubenstein ended their half-hour chat with a joke about her future: Would she be interested in joining a private equity firm?

“Is that an offer?” Clinton asked, laughing as the audience knowingly joined in. She may soon need many things from the titans of finance, but a job is probably not one of them.
Yeah… so stuck on awful for the next decade. Or more. Blue America has never endorsed anyone in a presidential election and you can rest assured that Hillary Clinton won't be the first. Instead, we ask our readers to contemplate a simple question, Why Settle? Really, why? The lesser of two evils, as we like to say, is still evil.

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At 1:59 PM, Blogger ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

I can't agree with you here, Howie.

Obama did more for Wall Street than any gooper could get away with.

He hired Eric Holder and Lanny Breuer from white shoes criminal defense firm Covington and Burling. In fact, he filled his administration with bankster fellation experts.

Wall Street could afford to pull back in 2012, because they knew he'd stay bought. As with Bill Clinton, his big payoff will come after he's done selling out his voters while President.

I voted for Obama in 2008, thinking he'd be slightly more liberal than Hillary. But look, the evidence is in. They're both 100% corporate whores. You know what a shit Rahm Emanuel is. Why do you think Obama made him his first chief of staff? And the subsequent ones have been no better.

Let's not even talk about Jack Lew.


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