Is it immature to say, “We told you so?”
The Business & Media Institute on Nov. 6 noted the media’s tendency to grant incoming White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel a free pass on his history with the taxpayer-rescued government sponsored enterprise (GSE) Freddie Mac. The New York Times continued the trend in a front page business profile of Emanuel Dec. 4.
Emanuel served on the GSE’s board of directors between 2000 and 2001 – a period during which the organization was mired in political contribution and accounting scandals. But you wouldn’t know that from reading the Times’ profile.
The article, “In Banking, Top Obama Aide Made Money and Connections,” examined Emanuel’s banking career after leaving the Clinton White House in late 1998. Author Michael Luo wrote, “The period before he was elected to a House seat from
Heavily sourced and researched, the nearly 1,700-word Times piece mentioned 12 separate companies and 16 individuals that figured in Emanuel’s career over the three years in question. But Luo didn’t find space for a single mention of Emanuel’s involvement with Freddie Mac during the same time period.
Emanuel “went on to make more than $18 million in just two-and-a-half years, turning many of his contacts in his substantial political Rolodex into paying clients and directing his negotiating prowess and trademark intensity to mergers and acquisitions,” Luo wrote. Presumably, that “prowess and trademark intensity” is what earned him more than $260,000 in “director’s fees” from Freddie Mac in 2000 – 2001, as the Chicago Sun-Times reported on Jan. 3, 2002.
Some other numbers are missing from the Times article. Luo discussed at length Emanuel’s “strong ties with an industry now at the heart of the economic crisis,” his ongoing relationships with financial executives, and the more than $1.5 million they’ve contributed to his congressional campaigns, according to the Center for Responsive Politics (CRP). But the Times didn’t mention another number available from the CRP: the $51,750 Freddie Mac and sister organization Fannie Mae have given Emanuel.
Commendably, Luo looked into the possibility that all those contacts and all that cash from the financial service sector might have clouded Emanuel’s judgment while voting on issues of consequence to the industry, though he found “no evidence” of that.
But while entertaining questions of money, ethics and conflicts of interest, Luo should have noted that Freddie Mac paid a $3.8 million fine for illegal political contributions made during the years Emanuel served on its board. And that when Emanuel arrived in Congress, he served on the subcommittee charged with oversight of his former employer, Freddie Mac.