Goldman Sachs got a surprise defender today: Former President Bill Clinton. He says that he thinks Goldman Sachs may not have violated the law, despite charges from the Securities and Exchange Commission. Clinton has a very complicated relationship with the Wall Street crisis. His treasury secretary, Robert Rubin, was once head of Goldman Sachs. And Clinton deregulated financial markets, creating the setting in which rocket science financial products emerged and nearly wrecked the global economy.
** QUICK HITS. The U.S. Senate has agreed to begin debate on the Wall Street reform bill. (See item below.) … Just a day after swearing in his handpicked lieutenant governor, Abel Maldonado, tensions appear to be growing between Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and Democratic legislative leaders. What’s the hang-up? Schwarzenegger setting the special election for Maldonado’s state Senate seat away from the general election, complicating Democratic plans to pick up the seat and costing coastal counties money for another election. (Democratic delays earlier caused the special election not to be at the same time as the statewide primary.) And reports that Schwarzenegger is using a proposed legislative pay cut to exert pressure in the chronic state budget crisis. … In brighter news, Attorney General Jerry Brown and Schwarzenegger both announced that the state, through legal action, has recovered another $400 million in consumer overpayments during the electric power crisis. Through legal action, the state has now recovered some $3 billion, with much more in play, from power contracts entered into under duress in the early part of the past decade.
** SENATE REPUBLICANS FIGURE IT OUT AND CAVE ON THEIR FILIBUSTER OF THE WALL STREET REFORM BILL. Two days of Senate votes blocking debate on the Wall Street reform bill backed by President Barack Obama was well into a third when Senate Republicans finally figured out that they were playing into Obama and the Democrats’ messaging. With a public outcry about Wall Street misdeeds that nearly tanked the global economy in 2008 and 2009 growing.
So now they are signaling that they will drop their filibuster — especially after Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid called for cots and insisted that Senate Republicans would have to actually filibuster, and not just vote again to block cloture — and allow debate on the bill to move forward.
It was Nevadan Reid’s idea to schedule multiple cloture votes in rapid succession this week in order to highlight Republican insistence on blocking movement on the issue.
Which means that the bill has passed its 60-vote supermajority threshold essentially by default, and that a Democratic victory on the bill is all but assured.
Now we’ll see how the negotiations go. Where they have to get, in addition to regulating and in some cases outlawing exotic financial maneuvers, is to make it much harder to do massive bank bailouts. At least with public money.
Then there is the question of the new consumer financial protection bureau, which many Senate Republicans oppose because it will be a strong new regulatory tool.
** CALIFORNIA 2010: WHITMAN SAYS SHE “MISSED THE SIGNPOSTS” ON HER INSIDE TRADING AS A GOLDMAN SACHS BOARD MEMBER. Billionaire Meg Whitman’s campaign is furiously trying to spin away a controversy that could consume her massively funded candidacy. Namely, her controversial tenure as a member of the board of Goldman Sachs, which ended with the investment bank settling federal charges against it, and with her disgorging millions she garnered through her trading on inside information granted to her. That’s the so-called “spinning” of initial public offerings, in which she took stock granted to her in advance of it being publicly available, as an insider and board member, and sold it for huge profits a few days later when the shares hit the public markets.
So Whitman did an interview yesterday, in which she did not adequately push back against the controversy. Whitman said she’d left the Goldman Sachs board because she “wasn’t a good fit.” Which she evidently learned as federal regulators and eBay stockholders were closing in, and not a moment before.
However, she did not apologize for her actions, which are now banned.
Instead, Whitman said: “I missed the signposts here.”
What does that mean?
“The lesson learned about it is you have to be extra vigilant about seeing any actual or perceived conflict of interest.”
Translation: She thinks that she should have realized that her highly lucrative inside stock trades could be perceived as constituting a conflict of interest.
But she does not admit that she had a conflict of interest. Or that she did anything at all that was wrong, even though she suddenly left the board in the wake of the firestorm of controversy her actions helped engender.
Reality check: This issue is never going away for Whitman, especially with this sort of handling.
And all the spuriously spun-up attempts to equate Whitman with Jerry Brown — whose sister Kathleen works on the public finance side of Goldman Sachs, and is uninvolved with any controversial activity (and whose one-time city Oakland entered into a Goldman-sponsored financing mechanism initiated before he became mayor by the city manager that Brown fired) — will not work.
The same goes for the Whitman camp’s efforts to equate her Goldman Sachs activities with Steve Poizner, her closing Republican primary rival, having had some investments through Goldman Sachs.
President Barack Obama dropped in on Jerry’s Family Restaurant in Mt. Pleasant, Iowa yesterday where he met 107-year old Frances Asher. He is on a “White House to Main Street” tour through Iowa, Illinois, and Missouri.
** PUNDITS, BLOGGERS, ACTIVIST LEADERS THINKING OF RUNNING FOR HIGH OFFICE? THINK AGAIN. I was in a rush on a very busy Saturday morning. I knew there had to be a press room at the LA Convention Center for the California Democratic convention. There had to be. I just hadn’t bothered to find out where it was. Fortunately, I saw a very familiar face.
“Hey, Mickey,” I said. “Where’s the press room?” It was Mickey Kaus, the very prominent Slate blogger and former New Republic columnist. Then I noticed that he was holding not a notebook but a stack of flyers, which he was trying to hand out to mostly uninterested people as they entered the convention.
That’s right, I remembered. Mickey is running for the U.S. Senate. …
** OBAMA TODAY. President Barack Obama is in Iowa, Illinois, Missouri, and Washington, D.C. today.
Obama had his daily intelligence and economic briefings, then departed Des Moines, Iowa en route to Quincy, Illinois.
At 10:20 AM Pacific, Obama tours POET Biorefining in Macon, Missouri.
At 11 AM Pacific, Obama delivers remarks on the economy in Macon, Missouri.
At 12:20 PM Pacific, Obama tours a farm in Palmyra, Missouri.
At 2 PM Pacific, Obama delivers remarks on financial reform at Oakley Lindsay Civic Center in Quincy, Illinois.
At 3:15 PM Pacific, Obama departs Quincy, Illinois on Air Force One en route to Andrews Air Force Base.
At 5:05 PM Pacific, Obama lands at Andrews Air Force Base, where he boards Marine One.
At 5:20 PM Pacific, Obama lands on the South Lawn of the White House.
Back in Washington, Vice President Biden delivers remarks at the Wounded Warrior Soldier Ride on the South Lawn, meets with the U.N. Special Representative for Iraq Ad Melkert in the Roosevelt Room, meets with the President of the European Parliament Jerzy Buzek in the Roosevelt Room, and attends a DNC event at the Washington Hilton.
Obama is also monitoring geopolitical crises in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, and Iraq.
In Iraq, where the withdrawal of American combat troops is only a few months away, the government following national elections over seven weeks ago is still not settled. The secular Sunni party headed by former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi surprisingly finished first ahead of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s Shiite-based party. But no one has been able to form a government and the shape of a national coalition government remains elusive.
Offshore oil drilling? Not so fast. Hotel owners, tour operators and fishermen are all watching anxiously as oil from the wrecked rig Deepwater Horizon creeps toward the Gulf Coast.
** FROM THE ARNOLD FILE. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is in Los Angeles today.
At 10:30 AM at Kentwood Elementary School in Los Angeles, Schwarzenegger will join Governor’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports Chairman Jake Steinfeld to announce that more than a million California students have signed up to participate in the 2010 Governor’s Fitness Challenge. That consists of exercising at least 30 minutes every other day.
Coca-Cola will also announce that it will fund eight brand new “Live Positively” Fitness Centers, valued at more than $100,000 each, at eight California schools that live up to Fitness Challenge.
Erstwhile Schwarzenegger ally Steve Poizner, who has partially closed a big gap in his race for the GOP nod for governor of California (first revealed here on NWN) against billionaire Meg Whitman, has a new anti-Arnold ad. Yesterday was one for the radio. Today’s is a TV ad.
… THE CALIFORNIA AS FIRST “FAILED STATE” DEBATE: SCHWARZENEGGER, DAVIS, WHITMAN, AND JERRY BROWN. … From my March 2nd column.
Here is my series of five columns on the governorship of Arnold Schwarzenegger for the Los Angeles Times in debate in fall 2008, prior to the global economic meltdown, with Pulitzer Prize-winning former Times reporter/editor Bill Boyarsky, whose columns are also included. Among them is what I’m sure is the first piece examining Schwarzenegger’s legacy as governor of California. Since he will actually be governor of California until 2011. No technology known to be disruptive to the space/time continuum was used in its preparation. You can listen to my video webchat last spring with Schwarzenegger here.
** CALIFORNIA STORY: BROWN, BOXER, AND (UN)CONVENTION(AL) POLITICS. Big developments in the past few days make it clear why California has the biggest races in the country this year, with President Barack Obama helping Barbara Boxer defend her Senate seat and Jerry Brown, trying for a record third term as governor, taking on the biggest spending statewide campaign in American history.
At its weekend convention in Los Angeles, the California Democratic Party endorsed Attorney General Jerry Brown as its candidate for an unprecedented third term as governor, in the process embracing him as the party’s “patriarch,” as one newspaper put it, albeit of the decidedly maverick variety. Brown, the two-time Democratic presidential runner-up who I shadowed on and off, reset the governor’s race against billionaire Meg Whitman or super-rich State Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner with a debate challenge and a focus on the excesses of Wall Street. … From my April 21st essay.
** JERRY BROWN’S LONG AND WINDING ROAD. … From my April 15th column.
** OBAMA’S NUCLEAR STRATEGY AND THE RUSSIAN RESURGENCE. … From my April 12th column.
** OBAMA’S BIG NEW AFPAK PROBLEMS. … From my April 7th column.
** 10 KEY THINGS TO KNOW ABOUT THE HIGH-STAKES CALIFORNIA GOVERNOR’S RACE: WHAT IT MEANS FOR BROWN, WHITMAN, POIZNER, ROMNEY, AND OBAMA. … From my April 1st column.
** 24: DOWN FOR THE COUNT? … From my March 30th column.
** HOW JERRY BROWN CLEARED THE DEMOCRATIC FIELD FOR GOVERNOR OF CALIFORNIA. … From my December 9th, 2009 column.
** OBAMA: RIDING WITH HISTORY. (NOTE: As Barack Obama was inaugurated as the 44th president of the United States, this column was the featured column on the top of the front page of the Huffington Post.) … From my January 19th, 2009 Huffington Post column.
** 24/7 LIVE TV NEWS FEED FROM RUSSIA TODAY. Russia has re-emerged as one of the world’s great powers. Click here for a live TV news feed on your computer, bringing you English-language, jargon-free, fast-paced coverage of global and Russian news from the Russia Today channel. You probably already know about CNN International, BBC World, and Al Jazeera. Russia Today, which also features culture, entertainment, and sports, is based in Moscow and is owned and operated by the TV Novosti division of Russia’s state news agency, RIA Novosti. While it’s quite foolish to expect to see, say, criticism of Vladimir Putin on Russia Today, the channel is very interesting nonetheless. With U.S. cable news chattering away as it does, this sort of respite can be informative. The NWN live link to RT does not constitute an endorsement of the channel’s views. It’s presented as an otherwise unavailable new media window.
** 24/7 LIVE TV NEWS FEED FROM AL JAZEERA. With the US entangled in two wars in the region, it’s valuable to keep up with news and perspectives from the leading Middle Eastern-based TV news network. Based in the Gulf Arab state of Qatar, Al Jazeera is very influential and more than a bit controversial. Click here for a live TV news feed on your computer. The NWN live link to AJ does not constitute an endorsement of the channel’s views. It’s presented as an otherwise unavailable new media window.
** TRACK GLOBAL AND NATIONAL ENERGY PRICES IN NEAR REAL TIME VIA BLOOMBERG ENERGY MARKET WATCH. Having crashed over $147 for yet another record on July 11th, 2008, crude oil is trading around $84 per barrel.
This is up about $50 from the low of $34 per barrel prior to enactment of the Obama economic recovery program, reflecting a low point in global economic activity.
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