Bush:Oil::Obama:Wall Street?

I didn’t comment on the Summers financial disclosure stuff from a week and a half ago. So what did I think….

Back in the early 2000s, friends and I would have a parlor game we’d play where we’d name a member of the Bush Administration, and try to find their connection to the energy industry. Bush’s family obviously were Texas Oil people, but the connections were everywhere. Condoleezza Rice, the African-American Female Professor at Stanford; that dorky professor shouldn’t be connected? Nope, she sat on the board at Chevron Corporation. She even had an oil tanker named after her. And so it went.

It was tough not to think of that game when reading the Obama’s team financial disclosure forms. There are a lot of people who are directly, or indirectly, being paid by Wall Street.

Felix Salmon looks at the list of Summers contributors:

Larry Summers made a lot of money last year, and boy is it voyeuristically impossible to resist looking through his disclosure to see who paid him what. The really big money, unsurprisingly, came from DE Shaw: a salary of $1,432,497 (weird amount, that), along with partnership distributions of $3,756,126, for a total of $5,188,623. But just because he was earning $100,000 a week from DE Shaw doesn’t mean he wasn’t earning lots of money elsewhere, too: his speaking engagements alone came to another $2.8 million or so…

But Summers’s speeches are interesting too, especially the foreign ones: $67,500 from Tata Conultancy Services; $90,000 from the Asociation de Bancos de Mexico; $103,500 from the Universidad Autonoma del Estado de Baja California; $112,500 from Centro de Liderazgo y Gestion in Colombia; the same amount from IESE Business School in Spain; $135,000 from the American Chamber of Commerce in Argentina; and a whopping $225,000 from Leaders and Company, the publishers of This Day newspaper in Nigeria.

Summers also made $100,000 from giving speeches to citigroup. Matt Taibbi has a nice writeup of the way this overlap between administration and Wall Street looks from the sidelines.

I remember when Cheney created his White House Energy Task Force with a list of undisclosed energy interests. Remember that drama, with the lawsuits and everything? Man was I pissed back then! (so young, so full of energy. *sigh*) Thankfully the New York Times focused my rage:

The Bush administration’s effort before the Supreme Court to shield the names of private citizens who helped devise its energy policy might appear on the surface unrelated to its defense, in cases also before the court, of the detention of those the administration has classified as enemy combatants.

But the legal arguments are strikingly similar, projecting a vision of presidential power in both war and peace as far-reaching as any the court has seen and posing important questions of the constitutional separation of powers.

It’s like shredding the Constitution – yeah! Power to the people! Now I get to read the New York Times try and spin this:

Mr. Summers, the former Treasury secretary and Harvard president who is now the chief economic adviser to President Obama, earned nearly $5.2 million [at DE Shaw]..work[ing] just one day a week…

Mr. Summers said in an interview that his experience at Shaw, however brief, gave him valuable insight into the practical realities of Wall Street, insight he is now putting to use in shaping economic policy in the White House…

At Harvard and at Shaw, Mr. Summers cultivated a small circle of financial professionals — particularly hedge fund managers — to serve as an informal brain trust. He consults with them on policy matters from his perch in the White House…

I’m not a reporter nor a government wonk, but I certainly hope this “informal brain trust” is getting FOIA’ed to death, or at least half as hard as the Energy Task Force. And before you say “Stop being a drama queen. Isn’t it great that Obama is listening to the real insiders who know stuff, and not the naysayers from the sidelines?”, I remember hearing “Stop being a drama queen. Of course Cheney is listening to the Oil Industry in forming our energy policy, they actually know things – who is he going to listen to, the naysayers at Greenpeace and the Sierra Club?” from many, many energy engineering types.

I never thought bad faith about our energy policy at the time; I simply thought that what the Bush Team and Energy Industry wanted to accomplish – larger supply, more subsidies for exploration, no concern for warming, was the opposite of what I thought actually needed to get done. And here, I don’t think the Geithner et al are evil plutocrats wanting to steal from Peter to give to citi. However I do worry their interests aren’t aligned with what actually needs to be done…

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