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Obama and His Very own Fat Cat Bankers

President Obama is well known for disparaging big wheel bankers, labeling them “fat cats” and describing their pay as “obscene.” But what is less well known is the extent to which he has tolerated them as his most trusted advisers.

The appointment last month of William Daley to be chief of staff is only the most obvious example of this inconsistency. OK, hypocrisy. Sorry, inconsistency.

Daley, as has been (somewhat) widely reported, deep pocketed more that $15 million in bonuses, salary and pensions last year for what must have been some outstanding work for JP Morgan.

But Daley’s predecessor in the job, Rahm Emanuel, also made “obscene” sums as a banker, though it took him a bit longer than Daley. Between the time he resigned in 1998 as a senior adviser to President Clinton and his election to Congress in 2002, Emanuel made $16.2 million as an investment banker in Chicago.

Obama and William Daley
Obama applauds Daley for making $15 million in one year. Photo by Keith Koffler

OMB Director Jack Lew also tried his hand at banking, making about $2 million working for two years at Citigroup, including $1.1 million in compensation for his work in 2007 and a nearly $1 million bonus covering his duties in 2008. He took the bonus just before going to work at the Obama State Department, where he hung out until becoming OMB director.

One of Lew’s jobs at the bank was to head up a Citigroup hedge fund unit that profited from the financial crisis by investing in a firm that bet on the housing market to collapse. Very helpful.

Lew’s predecessor, Peter Orszag, joined Citgroup as Vice Chairman of Global Banking after leaving OMB last summer.

And then there’s National Security Adviser Tom Donilon, who has profited handsomely by helping out fat cat bankers.

He lobbied from 1999-2005 for Fannie Mae, trying to keep regulators at bay while Fannie Mae self-destructed amid accounting irregularities and loans to people who couldn’t afford them.

After leaving Fannie Mae, he went on to carry water for some top investment bankers. According to a Wall Street Journal article on some of the Obamaites 2008 earnings:

Donilon earned $3.9 million as a partner at the law firm of O’Melveny & Myers LLP, where his clients include Citigroup, Inc., Goldman, Sachs & Co., and Obama fundraiser and heiress Penny Pritzker.

Ironically, the man perhaps most often cited as one of Obama’s banker, Treasury Secretary Time Geithner – often said to have worked for Goldman Sachs – has in fact never been a banker, and has spent a lifetime in public service.