As President Obama quietly signed a bill to dump further disclosure requirements for congressional and senior executive branch staffers, his former staffers were looking to ring the cash register. Leveraging their access to the Obama Administration, these Corporate Democrats have found a way to triangulate some loot – buckraking.
Welcome to the buckraking phase of the Obama era. If the campaign was about hope, and the early presidency was about change, increasingly the administration has settled into a kind of normalcy in which it accommodates itself to Washington far more than Washington accommodates itself to Obama.
In other words, influence peddling. It seems for most of the Obama Team “public service” was just a pretext for private payoffs.
Take Robert Wolf, a former U.S. chairman of the investment bank UBS and an early Obama fund-raiser, who has served as an all-purpose (and highly visible) “first buddy” throughout the presidency. Last year, Wolf dreamed up the idea for a firm called 32 Advisors, which would instruct clients here and abroad on a variety of business transactions, such as how to secure U.S. government financing for export deals.
The firm opened its doors in February after signing up several prominent Obama alumni, including former White House economic adviser Austan Goolsbee, who will provide “economic intelligence” as a “strategic partner,” and Kevin Varney, the former chief of staff of the government’s export-import bank (the very same agency clients will hit up for loans)…
According to Wolf, the president is aware of this new venture and has pronounced himself supportive. “I had the ability to speak with him numerous times about what I’m doing,” Wolf says. “He saw my excitement, he was excited.”
Cha-ching! But of course when you are doing something clearly inappropriate the first tactic is to point at those being possibly even more inappropriate. So there is a hilariously ironic holier than thou routine going on amongst the buckrakers.
The biggest rift separates the aides and advisers close to the campaign masterminds—Axelrod, Gibbs, and Plouffe—and those close to Anita Dunn, the de facto leader of the White House anti-boys-club faction, which also includes Obama confidant Valerie Jarrett...
Members of the Axelrod-Gibbs-Plouffe axis chafe at the work Dunn’s firm, SKDKnickerbocker, has done for ex–Republican governor Charlie Crist and for a coalition of junk-food manufacturers. “We’re very sensitive about not working for anyone that … might reflect poorly on the president,” says one former Obama adviser. “Other firms haven’t concerned themselves with that. Anita Dunn and SKDK worked on the sugar campaign in direct competition with the first lady’s anti-obesity campaign.”
Come on Anita, there is an art to corruption. If you work for companies that vaguely align with Obama’s current poll driven mostly benign issue campaign you are a person of profound conviction and dedication and those oceans of cash are just a reward for virtue. Otherwise you are clearly a careerist mercenary.
Snark aside, is anyone really surprised by this behavior? Most of this lot were mercenaries before they were hired by Obama Inc., what were they going to go back to once they performed their public duties? Perhaps the next president should look outside the beltway mafia for staff if he/she doesn’t want to be embarrassed later.
Photo by Susan NYC under Creative Commons license