Have you been wondering whether Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner is leaving some key details out in the chronology of his negotiations with AIG CEO Edward Liddy?
Since Geithner knew about Liddy's plans to pay out the company's now-infamous bonuses before they became public on Saturday -- and since the bonuses have been common knowledge in the media for months -- it's worth asking how directly Treasury was involved in okaying the payouts.
But it's too bad for Democrats that Republicans are the ones seeking the information.
The answer, of course, is fallen-from-grace New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer (D).
His pursuit of alleged wrongdoing at AIG was so relentless that some conservative-leaning commentators attempted to pin the company's downfall on Spitzer ... who had his own downfall to deal with by then.
But for no other reason than his insider's knowledge of AIG, it's worth reading Spitzer's take on the troubled company. The ex-governor agrees with Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA), who told TPMDC yesterday that the brouhaha over bonuses is a "red herring" of sorts that distracts attention from the truth of the AIG bailout: $100 billion of the taxpayers' $170 billion went not to bonuses, but to bailing out AIG's counterparties.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) just released a statement announcing that her Democrats will offer legislation this week to recoup AIG's now-infamous executive bonuses. Here's the statement from her office:
The House committees are considering several actions to recoup taxpayer dollars, such as:
Â· Authorizing the U.S. Attorney General to recover prior and future excessive compensation payments made by companies, such as AIG, that received federal financial assistance;
Â· Prohibiting abuse of retention bonuses by companies receiving capital infusions from Treasury; and
Â· Recouping a substantial portion of the bonuses through special taxation legislation.
Pelosi also noted that "Congress has already passed legislation signed into law by President Obama last month that protects taxpayers from excessive executive compensation."
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Before he became White House budget director, Peter Orszag headed the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office -- and in a little-noticed blog post six months ago, he called for "more clarity" on the relative solvency of individual banks as a means to help heal the economic crisis.
Orszag's call for transparency about the financial health of banks came during the early days of the bailout debate, before the Bush Treasury Department abandoned its plan to purchase toxic assets from banks and decided to provide large-scale capital injections instead. The bulk of his blog post is dedicated to a defense of mark-to-market accounting standards, which government financial regulators are about to relax.
Here's an amusing item from the special election for Kirsten Gillibrand's old House seat.
Yesterday, the Albany Times-Unionreported that an attack ad from the National Republican Trust PAC was pulled from the local NBC station. The station's general manager said the PAC didn't provide documentation of its claims against Democratic candidate Scott Murphy.
Now today, the Times-Union reporter Irene Jay Liu has posted an mp3 of a rather interesting phone call from last night with the PAC's executive director Scott Wheeler, insisting that the ad was never pulled -- that he did provide backup to NBC and it was accepted with almost no modification -- and defending the accuracy of the claims:
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Washington can have a woefully short memory. But Sens. Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Olympia Snowe (R-ME) remember what TPMDC reported on just last month: their proposal to force bailed-out companies to rescind executive bonuses could have made it into the stimulus bill, but was stripped out by Democratic leaders at the last minute.
Wyden and Snowe are now asking Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner to support their bailout bonuses measure, which could have prevented much of the current AIG flap and was scored as a money-maker for the U.S. government.
The Family Research Council (FRC) and Concerned Women of America (CWA): You know them well as some of the most vocal right-wing groups in the nation, the types that push against President Obama's agenda as hard as they can, from his nominees to his executive orders.
And guess where the two groups are headed today ... to the White House, to meet with Obama's director of faith-based initiatives about finding common ground on religious-related issues.
It seems there's no end to the frustration on Capitol Hill over the behavior of bailed-out banks. On a day when AIG remained the No. 1 target of populist wrath from both parties, 43 House Democrats dashed off a letter to JP Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon, blasting the bank's plan to spend $400 million on expanding its Indian IT workforce.
The letter, spearheaded by Rep. Mary Jo Kilroy (D-OH), whose state has 15,000 JP Morgan Chase employees, can be found after the jump, along with the names of co-signers (including Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank [D-MA]).
House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank (D-MA) just finished a press conference on AIG, where he divulged a new wrinkle in the ongoing push to recoup the company's lavish bonuses.
The U.S. government apparently added "covenants" to its deal with AIG to cede some of its rights as the majority owner of the company, Frank said, adding in plain English: "It's time to act as the owner."
Frank declined to elaborate further on the nature of the limits that were set "restraining [the government's] influence" over AIG, but he said he'd be taking the issue up further with the Obama administration later today.
And he reminded reporters that Congress had no control over the AIG bailout, which was conducted via the Federal Reserve rather than the legislation that set up the TARP program late last year. "Remember, the legislative authority for this is essentially the 1932 statute" that set the Fed's lending rules, Frank said.
Asked about the idea picking up steam in the Senate as well as the Joint Economic Committee to tax AIG's bonuses as 100%, Frank demurred to Rep. Charles Rangel's (D-NY) Ways and Means Committee, which has broad jurisdiction over taxation.
Late Update: Here's the video of Frank's comments today.