Back in the early days of the Obama administration, Democratic Congressman Barney Frank (MA) chaired the House Financial Services Committee.
So naturally, when Neil Barofsky became the Special Inspector General for TARP, he had to meet with Frank and get to know the colourful character political junkies love (or love to hate).
As you probably expect, the first meeting was eye-opening — hilarious, in fact. It’s all detailed in Barofsky’s new book (released today) called Bailout: An Insider Account of How Washington Abandoned Main Street While Rescuing Wall Street.‘
Barofsky went to see Frank while he was having trouble getting special permission to send out audit letters to banks. Apparently, there’s something called the Paperwork Reduction Act which limits the number of surveys that politicians can send to the American people in general. To bypass that, Barofsky wanted to get a special exemption from the Office of Management and Budget, but they weren’t having it.
That was Barofsky’s state when he went to go see the super powerful Frank. Frank’s own state was something like this (from the book):
“… he was leaning back in his chair, his suit jacket off and his hair tousled, with his rumpled shirt just barely tucked into his pants. He could not have presented a starker contrast to the neatly groomed and proper (Richard) Shelby. Frank skipped the usual formalities and mumbled so quickly that i had a difficult time deciphering what he was saying. One of the first questions out of his mouth — accompanied by an impressive spay of saliva that seemed to hang in the air for seconds before settling a good foot beyond the front of his desk — was to ask me if the audit letters had gone out to the banks yet.”
After a split second fo consideration, Barofsky decided to tell Frank what was going on. Frank didn’t even respond:
“… he immediately picked up his phone, dialed, and barked into the receiver, ‘Tell them Barney Frank is on the phone.’ After a short pause, he screamed about the act of obstruction that was inhibiting SIGTARP from carrying out its audit of the banks. I had no idea who he had called but I assumed that someone’s voicemail hd just taken a beating. He looked at me and said, ‘Geithner. That should hopefully take care of it, but if not, you let us know.'”
Barofsky walked out unsure of whether or Frank had actually called the Treasury and flipped out like that, but knowing Frank, it doesn’t seem that out-of-this-world.