Playing Politics with Goldman

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At the start of today’s press briefing, Robert Gibbs did his best to tamp down suggestions that the SEC’s case against Goldman Sachs was linked to the Obama Administration’s ongoing push for financial regulatory reform. “The SEC doesn’t notify the White House of its enforcement actions and certainly didn’t do so in this case,” Gibbs said, noting that even before news of the charges broke, there was “plenty of evidence” pointing to the need to create new regulatory standards. The press corps wasn’t satisfied. At the prompting of reporters, Gibbs was forced to repeat multiple times that nobody in the White House was apprised of impending charges.

Bloomberg News cites anonymous sources as saying the vote to charge Goldman was a 3-2 split, with SEC chair Mary Schapiro, an independent appointed by President Obama, joining two Democrats in voting to proceed with the case. As Adam noted this morning, both parties quickly politicized the issue, with Barney Frank and Chris Dodd among the Democrats arguing the case will make it harder for Republican lawmakers to oppose the bill. On the Republican side of the ledger, Sen. Judd Gregg argues “it’s really disingenuous” to promote financial reform based on one case that has yet to be tried, and Congressman Darrell Issa of California questions the timing of the announcement, which looks propitious for Democrats:

In a letter being sent Tuesday to the SEC, Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., asked the agency to explain why the case was filed as the financial regulations bill was pending.

“It must be nice for Democrats that the SEC’s filing against Goldman Sachs so conveniently fits into their political agenda,” said Issa, the top Republican on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

He noted that an Internet search of “Goldman Sachs” provides a link to Democratic National Committee Internet ad urging passage of new financial regulations. The DNC has used technological tools that link key search words to their ads. The financial regulation ad went up after the SEC filed its lawsuit.

House Minority Leader John Boehner, meanwhile, notes that Goldman was Obama’s top corporate donor during the 2008 presidential campaign:

“These are very serious charges against a key supporter of President Obama’s bill to create a permanent Wall Street bailout fund.  Despite President Obama’s rhetoric, his permanent bailout bill gives Goldman Sachs and other big Wall Street banks a permanent, taxpayer-funded safety net by designating them ‘too big to fail.’  Just whose side is President Obama on?

“Instead of permanent bailouts for President Obama’s Wall Street allies, Republicans believe the best way to protect taxpayers is by reforming Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the government-sponsored companies that sparked the meltdown by giving high-risk loans to people who couldn’t afford it.”

It’s also worth noting, perhaps, that early in 2009 — before 92% of Tea Party members, by one reckoning, latched onto the inaccurate idea that Obama is a socialist — Boehner charged that the President’s policies were “one big down payment on a new American socialist experiment.” He’s since walked back that claim, apparently settling instead on the argument that Obama is a corporate stooge pushing a bill designed to safeguard a major contributor. As the Cleveland Plain-Dealer notes, however, Obama isn’t the only beneficiary of Goldman’s largesse.