When we started writing about the allegation that Steve Rattner had threatened to use the White House press corps to ruin Perella Weinberg if the firm didn’t drop its opposition to the Obama administration’s Chrysler plan, we never expected it to become a political football. But on the left-wing of the political blogosphere, the story is quickly picking up steam. It’s being portraryed as some kind of plot by political conservatives.
“By reporting the story, Tapper chose to accept the validity of Lauria’s claim that the White House could get ‘the full force of the White House press corps‘ to threaten a private company. Despite the fact that the parties with direct knowledge — the White House and Perella Weinberg — denied to ABC that any threats were made, Tapper still reported Lauria’s false accusation on his ‘Political Punch’ blog. Drudge and other right-wing outlets are glad he did.”
By our count there are at least two important errors in those two sentences.
- Your don’t have to accept the validity of the claim that the White House could get the White House press corps to do its bidding to accept the possibility that Steve Rattner would make the threat. That is, even if the press corps isn’t so compliant, Rattner might have tried to scare opposition funds who wouldn’t have been in a position to know whether the White House can control the press in this way.
- Perella Weinberg hasn’t denied that the threats were made. We’ll reprint the full statement from PW below so you can judge for yourself. From our read of it, however, it seems that PW went out of its way not to deny that it was threatened. Instead, it denied that closed-door threats were responsible for why it changed to supporting the White House’s position. Importantly, it says that it changed its position following Obama’s speech, in which he attacked the dissenters publicly.
It boggles the mind to see progressives deciding that because the White House and a corporation deny a charge, that the charge must be false. Imagine, for instance, these folks accepting a version of events simply because it had been put forth by the Bush White House and Halliburton. But this is exactly what Think Progress and Media Matters are doing. It’s as if their cognitive critical apparatus had simply stopped functioning sometime in January.
We think this is an important story, one that deserves further investigation. Critical questions raised by a credible professional about the conduct of those in high offices of the US government remain unresolved. Excoriating reporters who follow up on these questions doesn’t strike us as very progressive or thoughtful. It seems, rather, evidence of a kind of political mania that we’d all be better off putting aside.
Here’s the full statement by Perella Weinberg:
Suggestions have been made that the Perella Weinberg Partners Xerion Fund changed its stance on the Chrysler restructuring due to pressure from White House officials. This is incorrect. The decision to accept and support the proposed deal was made by the Xerion Fund after reflecting carefully on the statement of the President when announcing Chrysler’s bankruptcy filing. In considering the President’s words and exercising our best investment judgment, we concluded that the risks of potentially severe capital loss that could arise from fighting this in bankruptcy court far outweighed any realistic potential upside.
We have a very specific mandate from our investors, and that is to carefully weigh investment risks and rewards. It is not our investment mandate to pursue political or risky legal campaigns with our investors’ money. This was our assessment of investment risk and reward, nothing else.
While we did and still do believe that the lenders would be justified in pressing their objections under conventional bankruptcy law principles, we believe a settlement would now be in the best interests of all parties in the context of avoiding a drawn out contested bankruptcy litigation proceeding, and we encourage our colleagues in the loan syndicate to pursue this immediately.
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