When President Obama introduced Jacob J. “Jack” Lew as his top budget officer Tuesday, he praised his work handling finances in the Clinton White House and recently as a deputy secretary in the State Department — but he forgot to mention the lucrative Wall Street job in between.
Mr. Lew was chief operating officer at Citi Alternative Investments, a unit of Citigroup, just before joining the Obama administration last year. Citigroup received a big bailout months before Mr. Lew took his last job as Deputy Secretary of State for $177,000 per year.
It was a big pay cut.
Mr. Lew took home $1.1 million in compensation from Citigroup during 2008 and the first two weeks of January 2009, according to his 2009 government ethics filing.
He also noted in the same Office of Government Ethics disclosure that he was eligible for a discretionary compensation — or a bonus — which he would collect prior to assuming the State Department post.
Last year, in response to an inquiry by The Washington Times about Mr. Lew’s Citigroup compensation, the State Department declined to say how much of his $1.1 million in compensation came in the form of bonuses.
“Like so many, Deputy Secretary Lew returned to government to serve the public. A review of his public financial disclosure report and his federal salary speaks to that commitment,” a spokesman said at the time.
Mr. Lew’s ties to Citigroup received only passing mention at his confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last year.
Sen. Johnny Isakson, Georgia Republican, asked Mr. Lew about what sorts of alternative investments he handled at Citigroup.
“They ranged from private equity investments to real estate investments and various forms of fixed-income investments,” Mr. Lew answered, adding that he wouldn’t participate in any matters “that have particular impact on Citigroup.”
While the White House made clear mention of Mr. Lew’s work at the company in an announcement naming him the new director of the Office of Management and Budget, Mr. Obama passed over that portion of Mr. Lew’s resume in his remarks Tuesday.
Still, Mr. Obama praised Mr. Lew for his work as deputy director at the OMB, as a principal domestic policy adviser to Tip O’Neill, as an executive vice president at New York University and, most recently, as Deputy Secretary of State for Management Resources.
“At a time when so many families are tightening their belts, he’s going to make sure that the government continues to tighten its own,” Mr. Obama said. “He’s going to do this while making government more efficient, more responsive to the people it serves.”
White House spokesman Robert Gibbs Tuesday downplayed any concerns about Mr. Lew’s work at Citigroup being an obstacle at his confirmation to the OMB post.
“Jack has been through a vetting process before,” he said at a press briefing.