Monday on Meet the Press, Mayor Bloomberg said Obama should hire Roger Altman, the former Deputy Secretary of the Treasury, as the director of the National Economic Council, replacing Larry Summers.
Altman is being considered largely because he’s worked in the government before — as an Assistant Secretary to the Treasury and later, as the Deputy Secretary — but mostly because he’s a businessman.
(If he were married to Wonder Woman, which he’s not, that might also have something to do with it.)
Mayor Bloomberg summed up his potential role in Washington on Monday like this:
“There are other people like [Altman], who can give [Obama] a broader perspective,” people who will say “What you’re talking about is theoretical. Let me tell you about the real world.”
Of course Bloomberg is pushing for the Wall Streeter because he, too, is a Wall Streeter. Bloomberg worked in equities trading at Soloman Brothers during the 1980s before he started an early version of Bloomberg that was, at the time, just the terminals.
Altman was also on Wall Street during the 80s, when he in charge of investment banking at Lehman Brothers, and he was later at Blackstone.
By now, most people overlook the Whitewater record-keeping scandal that caused Altman to resign from the Treasury on August 18th,1994.
The scandal appears minor enough in reports that have glazed over the event in recent years. But piecing together several reports, we’re able to get a picture of what happened.
While he was Deputy Treasury under President Bill Clinton, Altman was giving testimony about the Clintons’ Whitewater real estate dealings.
A scandal had recently erupted in which a judge, David Hale, had claimed that the Clintons asked him to give an illegal $300,000 loan to Susan McDougal.
Altman was asked about the extent of contacts between the White House and the Treasury, namely, he was asked about notifying the White House that the Whitewater scandal was beginning.
Altman referred to just one meeting in which he notified the White House about coming criminal referrals although there had been many, and he did not mention that some of the discussions had dealt with a sensitive political point, the Whitewater scandal.
The New York Times has the conclusion of the story:
In his letter of resignation to President Clinton, Mr. Altman, a former New York investment banker, apologized for any mistakes he might have made, adding that, “hopefully, my stepping down will help to diminish the controversy.”
In a separate letter to Mr. Bentsen, Mr. Altman said that, “While my Congressional testimony last February wasn’t what it should have been, there was never any intent to withhold information.”
Altman quickly returned to the business world with his reputation intact and founded Evercore Partners, a private equity and money management business which Altman would probably have to stop managing if he became director of the National Economic Council.
His top competition is most likely Richard Levin, Yale’s President, and Gene Sperling, a Treasury adviser.
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