At a press conference on Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, dodged questions from reporters about his party’s close ties to Wall Street, while he attacked the GOP for the Republicans’ Wall Street connections.
When asked about the numerous finance lobbyists on Capitol Hill and their efforts with the Democrats, Mr. Reid responded, “There are more than 1500 lobbyists here to work on this bill. Push back is coming from those who don’t want any changes in this legislation just as with healthcare. “
Fox Business Network’s Charles Gasparino wrote a story last week about a fund raising event hosted by Goldman Sachs and attended by Mr. Reid. Mr. Gasparino wrote:
” …Reid was verbally harangued by several senior Goldman executives, including Cohn himself, for being part of the growing chorus of politicians who are using anti-Wall Street rhetoric to score political points.”
CNN’s Dana Bash asked Senator Reid about the fundraising dinner, alluding to the Senator’s own communications with the financial firm. Mr. Reid evaded the issue saying, “First of all, every thing we have done with this legislation is about as transparent as it can be. I think that its clear that I’m leading the effort to reign in Wall Street to make them more accountable and end the ‘too big to fail.’”
Goldman Sach’s recently hired former White House counsel Greg Craig to help them deal with the Securities Exchange Commission’s fraud charges against the firm. “Goldman wrongly permitted a client that was betting against the mortgage market to heavily influence which mortgage securities to include in an investment portfolio, while telling other investors that the securities were selected by an independent, objective third party,” said Robert Khuzami, SEC Director of Enforcement, in a statement last week.
I asked Mr. Reid’s reaction to Mr. Craig being hired as a legal counsel to the financial firm, and the Nevada Democrat would only say, “My friend Greg Craig is going to be…he has a few other people to deal with. That would be 1499, so he is just one out of 1500. He’s a very fine lawyer. I have great respect for Greg Craig.”
However, Mr. Reid failed to acknowledge the president’s ethics rule of banning any former staffers from working on issues that could conflict for two years after they leave. Mr. Craig’s new employment at Goldman Sach’s appears to violates the president’s own ethics rule.
Further more, the administration gave the impression of passing the buck on a seemingly toxic issue. White House spokesman Bill Burton told reporters on Air Force One today that the White House was not consulted about Mr. Craig’s position at Goldman Sachs.
“When the President came to office he was serious about making sure there was no revolving door for lobbyists coming in and out of the White House,” Mr. Burton said. “And as a result, he put in place some of the toughest rules the executive branch has ever seen in the history of our country to make sure that that sort of activity couldn’t happen.”
The White House spokesman reportedly assured press that the administration has nothing to do with the SEC’s investigation of Goldman, so the White House will not have anything to do with Mr. Craig.
“The bottom line is that if you work at the White House you can’t lobby for two years after you leave the White House. And I assume that people who leave the administration know those rules and are following those rules,” he said, adding that Obama will make sure people do,” Mr. Burton said.
In the meantime, the GOP is demanding records of the SEC contacts with the White House, the DNC, and the New York Times.