Thursday, April 16, 2009

More Change We Can Believe In

The Wall Street Journal reports tonight that President Merit Pay's "Car Czar" - Steven Rattner - may be implicated in the same pension fund scandal that brought down former Liberal Party head Raymond Harding.

Steven Rattner, the leader of the Obama administration's auto task force, was one of the executives involved with payments under scrutiny in a probe of an alleged kickback scheme at New York state's pension fund, according to a person familiar with the matter.

A Securities and Exchange Commission complaint says a "senior executive" of Mr. Rattner's investment firm met in 2004 with a politically connected consultant about a finder's fee. Later, the complaint says, the firm received an investment from the state pension fund and paid $1.1 million in fees.

The "senior executive," not named in the complaint, is Mr. Rattner, according to the person familiar with the matter. He is co-founder of the investment firm, Quadrangle Group, which he left to join the Treasury Department to oversee the auto task force earlier this year.


In the long-running pay-to-play case, authorities allege that about 20 investment firms made payments in exchange for investments from the $122 billion New York State Common Retirement Fund. The case, being investigated by New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo and the SEC, has led to three criminal indictments and a guilty plea. The attorney general's office and the SEC declined to comment.

To be fair, neither Rattner nor his firm have been accused of any wrongdoing in the case. Not yet, at any rate (the Journal does point out that the next phase of the case is expected to focus more on the firms, like Rattner's, that were involved, so who knows where the investigation goes from here.)

And to be honest, the Rupert Murdoch-owned Journal definitely has an anti-Obama agenda to push and hasn't been shy in pushing it. So printing a story alleging wrongdoing by Merit Pay's car czar could be nothing more than Murdoch political hackery.

That said, I am getting sick and tired of these Obama bigwigs, like Larry "I made $2.7 million last year from firms I'm bailing out this year" Summers and Timothy "Can't wait to retire from government service and get some of that yummy Goldman money Larry got" Geithner, making tons of money from their positions of influence. I am also sick of them getting to play by different rules (remember Treasury Timmeh's tax foibles?)

It is absolutely the case that the Bush administration, corrupt from top to bottom, had industry guys making all the calls in a host of government departments - from Interior to Defense. The most egregious example of this was Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson, who basically engineered a bailout scheme that helped his old firm, Goldman Sachs, rake in the bucks while their competition in the investment banking sector were either put out of business or were bought out (see here and here.)

But Obama campaigned on doing things differently, on demanding accountability and honesty from members of his administration and from people on Wall Street as well as Main Street.

Certainly he and his Secretary of Education, Uncle Arnie Duncan, are demanding accountability and honesty from teachers and schools across this nation.

But apparently President Merit Pay's standards are different when it comes to bigwigs, bankers, and connected businessmen.

Why is that?

I thought President Merit Pay was going to bring "change" to Washington.

So far, haven't seen much change.

Have seen lots of business as usual, however.

UPDATE: Another example of business as usual - AIG received hundreds of billions of taxpayer bailout dollars and paid much of that bailout money to its trading partners, including Goldman Sachs. AIG CEO Edward Liddy has a $3 million stake in Goldman - so taxpayers have bailed out AIG so it could pay Goldman which then paid AIG CEO Liddy.

Yeah, that's some change we can believe.

Where's the accountability there, President Merit Pay?
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