The US Chamber of Commerce has done battle with the Obama administration over the course of the past two years on some significant issues, and has been described by one observer as “one of the most determined and well-funded foes of Obama’s agenda.” So the news that Obama may be tapping a Chamber insider as his chief of staff should come as a surprise to those following the food fights between the two power blocs.
Bloomberg is reporting that Obama is considering naming Bill Daley, a JPMorgan executive and former U.S. Commerce secretary, to a top White House post, possibly chief of staff. Daley’s ties to the Chamber of Commerce haven’t been reported and aren’t immediately obvious, but they are significant.
From 2005 to 2007, he co-chaired a Chamber of Commerce committee on financial (de)regulation. The “Commission on the Regulation of Capital Markets in the 21st Century” eventually became the Chamber’s Center for Capital Markets Competitiveness, which played a prominent role in attacking derivatives regulation and consumer protections last year. The Hill called the group one of the “loudest voices on financial legislation” — and they weren’t exactly singing the praises of reform efforts.
Daley also signed on to a March 2009 Chamber manifesto on “Restoring Confidence in US Capital Markets,” the Chamber’s opening PR move in the financial reform debate. The declaration, released two months after Daley co-chaired Obama’s inauguration, appears to have been taken down from the Chamber’s site, but is available here via the google monster. Most signatories were Republican, judging from campaign finance info on LittleSis. Daley’s signature is found at the end:
I wouldn’t have caught most of these ties if I hadn’t written about them in late 2009, with help from LittleSis analysts.
JPMorgan also has a strong link to the Chamber through vice chair Jimmy Lee, who currently sits on the Chamber’s board. The company’s former head of litigation, Mark Segall, also held a seat on the board of the Chamber’s Institute for Legal Reform according to its last 990.
“She laid out how she saw the president’s proposal, and the difficulties politically in Congress, and Jamie and other members expressed their opinion of what they would like to see,” said Bill Daley, JPMorgan’s Midwest chairman, who attended the board meeting. “It was clear in June that she did not have a knee-jerk aversion to the concept of a federal consumer protection agency, in spite of all our brilliant arguments.”
Besides being a top corporate insider (he also sits on the boards of two Chicago-based Fortune 100 companies: Abbott Laboratories and Boeing), Daley is also an Obama insider: a major donor, co-chair of the inauguration, an adviser to the transition, a Chicago rainmaker, a mentor to Rahm Emanuel, and close friends with David Axelrod.
Indeed, a Daley appointment won’t so much mark a shift towards embracing the “business community” as it would further confirm the fact that the two camps were never far apart, or divided in any way. This is the White House of corporate tools like Rahm Emanuel and Larry Summers. On another level, it is the White House of Wall Street “wise men” Robert Rubin and Peter Peterson, of Brookings, Harvard, and Goldman Sachs.
The only jobs program Obama has embraced with any urgency is the one that puts elite corporate hacks like Daley to work in his administration. It looks like he plans to stay the course.