Now it's official: Mark Patterson, a former Goldman Sachs lobbyist, will be the new Treasury Secretary's chief of staff despite Barack Obama's supposedly strict new rules on lobbying and ethics.
Patterson lobbied for Goldman from 2005 until April of last year on a whole host of issues including credit default swaps, credit rating agencies, and sovereign wealth funds, the bank-driven deregulation of which brought us to the current debacle.
Now Patterson will be the point person on who gains access to the Treasury Sec's ear. But Patterson is hardly the heart of the problem. Geithner's ear is. To give a bit of background. Geithner's first job was with Kissinger Associates, where he worked with the former Secretary of State. From there, he went to the U.S. Treasury Department, where he rose in esteem and became an aide to Lawrence Summers and Robert Rubin -- two pro-bank, pro-deregulation Treasury Secretaries.
After Treasury, Rubin went on to head up Goldman Sachs and Citi-group. His mentee, Geithner, graduated to the New York Fed, where among his advisers were E. Gerald Corrigan, a managing director of Goldman Sachs, former Goldman CEO and Bush Treasury Secretary, Henry M. Paulson Jr.; even John Thain, the not-so-dearly departed CEO of Merrill Lynch.
Geithner's New York Fed hosted the key meetings that structured the Wall Street bail-out last fall. Everyone around the table had a deep investment in the decisions the government made and most made out: Goldman Sachs, for example, benefited handsomely from the bailout of AIG, its largest trading partner and Goldman was an early recipient of government largesse. Once the Treasury (under former Goldman CEO Paulson) agreed to allow the investment firm to restructure itself as a bank, bank Goldman applied for -- and received -- $10 billion from taxpayers. One can safely assume it's a first installment.
Now the next step of the bailout is in the works. Wednesday's New York Times business section headline reads, "Geithner Sets Limits on Lobbying. " But even a water-tight ban on lobbyists would hardly help us. With Geithner, Patterson and Summers/Rubin ruling the roost, it's not the lobbying -- meaning efforts to persuade -- that stands between we the people and change we can believe in. It's the stultifying level of agreement.