The Chamber of Commerce has led the fight against the financial reform bill making its way through Congress. The business lobby opposes the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Agency, enhanced oversight of derivatives, and other key parts of the reform package, and it won many concessions on the bill recently passed by the House of Representatives.
Though the White House and the Chamber have been at loggerheads, recently, at least two members of President Obama’s inside circle teamed up with the Chamber in its efforts to fight financial reform.
Mellody Hobson, president of the mutual fund company Ariel Investments, and JP Morgan executive William Daley are both affiliated with the Chamber of Commerce’s Center for Capital Markets Competitiveness. Both Daley and Hobson served on the Center’s predecessor committee and signed a letter from the Center urging the Obama administration to adopt Wall Street-friendly regulatory reform. Hobson and Daley were two of the only Democrats to sign the letter, judging from campaign finance data; it’s an overwhelmingly Republican bunch.
As I noted in my previous post about Representative Melissa Bean’s ties to the Obama fundraisers, Daley and Hobson are both very close to the president. Hobson has been raising money for him since 1995, is business partners with one of the first family’s closest friends, and campaigned side-by-side with Michelle Obama. Daley was an adviser to the Obama transition and co-chair of the Obama inauguration.
Hobson and Daley’s direct link to the Chamber surfaced after sundin noted that Representative Melissa Bean had ties to the Chamber through her former chief of staff, John Michael Gonzalez. Gonzalez was hired by the lobbying firm Peck, Madigan last spring. Sundin also discovered that the Chamber had thrown a fundraiser for Bean to help retire her debt after the 2006 cycle.
Bean led efforts to water down the financial reform bill that recently passed the House.
Hobson and Daley both gave big to Bean in June and July of this year, along with a whole slew of Chicago-based Obama insiders with ties to the financial industry. Joining them in directing money at Bean were several lobbyists from Peck, Madigan – Gonzalez’s firm. Sean Richardson, Sheila Murphy, Jonathon Jones, and Jeffrey Peck all gave money to Bean in late June. Gonzalez cut her a $2,400 check in March.
Hobson and Daley’s direct links to the Chamber of Commerce’s Wall Street coalition suggest that these contributions were part of a coordinated effort by Chamber-affiliated financial executives and lobbyists to support Representative Bean in her efforts to fight reform.
The Obama team’s ties to the Chamber of Commerce don’t end there. Sundin also discovered that Gonzalez’s bio at Peck, Madigan makes note of the prominent role he played during the Obama transition, of which Daley was an advisory board member:
In 2007, Mr. Gonzalez helped Obama Campaign for Change National Co-Chair Melissa Bean coordinate a successful House “super-delegate” operation for President Obama. He served on the Obama-Biden Transition Project in the office of Congressional Affairs and was responsible for Congressional outreach to the House Committees on Financial Services, Energy & Commerce, and Small Business. The National Journal said that Mr. Gonzalez “stands tall on the talent scorecard kept by Obama’s designated White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel.”
The chief of staff has very close ties to Bill Daley, as well. Emanuel got his start in the world of politics by working for Daley’s brother, Chicago mayor Richard M. Daley. In 2002, Daley helped send Emanuel to Washington by endorsing him for Rod Blagojevich’s old seat.
Emanuel accepted an invitation to be the keynote speaker at a Chamber board meeting on November 4th, in what was portrayed as a White House “fence-mending” effort.
The Obama team’s coziness with the Wall Street wing of the Chamber of Commerce suggests a degree of coordination on financial reform that doesn’t exist in other policy areas.
These ties may also explain why Chamber CEO Tom Donohue was a frequent visitor to the White House this year, according to newly-released logs.
Donohue’s two meetings with the president’s chief economic adviser, Larry Summers, occurred in the two weeks prior to the Chamber’s March 11, 2009 letter on Wall Street – the one signed by Hobson and Daley. All of his meetings with the president appear to have occurred within several weeks of this date, as well. His meetings with Valerie Jarrett occurred in June 2009, just days before Melissa Bean began receiving a stream of contributions from a number of individuals with close ties to Jarrett and Obama (including three of the five co-chairs of the Obama inauguration committee).
Greg Sargent has described the Chamber as “one of the most determined and well-funded foes of Obama’s agenda.” Whatever the case, the White House and the Chamber appear to enjoy some common ground on financial reform.
Note: Sundin, who dug up Gonzalez’s connection to the Chamber and Obama, is a LittleSis analyst — a member of LittleSis.org’s growing team of watchdogs working to shed light on the powers. Sign up as an analyst and join the investigation, if you haven’t already.