At a glance, none of the newly named members of the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commissioners come as a terrible surprise. Several of their names had been floated in news reports and rumors in the weeks leading up to today’s announcements. But there are a couple potential conflicts of interest worth pointing out.
On the Republican side, commission vice chairman Bill Thomas–a former Republican Congressman from California–raised $1.8 million for his campaigns from financial, insurance, and real estate interests, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. These are many of the same interests he’ll soon investigating. if selected for the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission. He raised hundreds of thousands of dollars during his political career from commercial banks, insurance firms, mortgage lenders, and professional associations like the American Bankers Association.On the Democratic side, former Florida Senator and Governor Bob Graham raised $2.1 million for his campaigns from similar interests, including tens of thousands from employees and PACs of Citibank, Bank of America, and Goldman Sachs.
That’s not to say that those who hope to see a thorough investigation have lost hope. Progressives seem by and large pleased by Democrats’ decision to appoint Phil Angelides to chair the commission, and are more pleased still with the selection of Brooksley Born, who chaired the Commodities Futures Trading Commission under President Clinton, and now chairs the board of directors of the National Women’s Law Center.
“Phil Angelides has a record of looking out for consumers, investors, and taxpayers, and is a good choice for chair of this investigative commission,” said David Donnelly, national campaigns director of Public Campaign Action Fund, which plans to push the committee to specifically investigate the role that lobbying and campaign contributions from Wall Street played in fermenting the crisis. “The full story of the financial crisis cannot be told without exploring and exposing the role played by campaign contributions from Wall Street, banking, and insurance executives in the development of deregulatory policies in the last two decades….As much as Mr. Angelides is a solid choice, we are concerned about the selection of former Representative Bill Thomas as Vice Chair. Over his career, Rep. Thomas raised $1.8 million from the finance, insurance, and real estate interests, and supported many of the deregulatory policies those interests pursued.”
The commission is expected to begin work in a matter of weeks.