Buckraking: How Team Obama’s revolving door rakes in millions

Noam Scheiber, always excellent, has a must-read piece on the way senior Obama people are raking it in, or preparing to rake it in, in the wake of the Obama second term, a legacy tour all on its own. He starts (my emphasis and some reparagraphing):

One of the stars of Barack Obama’s 2012 State of the Union address was Jackie Bray, a single mother who was laid off in 2011 and struggled for months to find a good-paying job. Bray’s luck finally turned, the president explained, when German industrial giant Siemens hired her at a turbine factory in North Carolina. Though Bray didn’t have the skills Siemens wanted, the company partnered with a local community college to train workers like her and even covered their tuition. Before long, Bray was earning a generous wage in a job she loved, operating robotic equipment and lasers. As the president spoke, she sat next to the first lady and beamed.

It was the sort of success that cuts to the heart of Obama’s vision of government—activist but not heavy-handed. … It was also P.R. gold for Siemens, the kind of product placement you couldn’t buy if you wanted to. But you can certainly increase your odds.

As it happens, Siemens had recently signed up Camille Johnston, the first lady’s former communications director, to be its vice president of corporate affairs. For almost two years, few people had a better chance to size up the Obamas, and Johnston put her insights to use prepping her boss at Siemens for a White House meeting.

“It was the first foreign company [Obama] mentioned in a State of the Union as far as I could tell,” says a former administration official. “It’s not like it happens by accident.” Welcome to the buckraking phase of the Obama era.

Please read. The list of high-profile names you’ve heard — economist Austan Goolsbee, ex-Obama campaign manager David Plouffe, ex–Press Secretary Robert Gibbs — and high-profile names you maybe haven’t — ex-“enforcer” Jim Messina, ex–Deputy Campaign Manager Stephanie Cutter, Obama insider and former–UBS Chairman Robert Wolf, ex–Communications Director Anita Dunn — makes quite a commentary on the payday they’ve made for themselves.

Top underlings can turn $1 million per year from four clients

They plumped up the mattress then landed very softly indeed. Just a taste of the goodness that awaits:

Corruption via Shutterstock

Corruption via Shutterstock

But it turns out the highest-profile White House grads don’t so much join consulting firms these days; they found them. A boldfaced Obama name can rake in upward of $25,000 per month from a client just by dialing into a conference call and drafting a memo from time to time. Four clients means more than a million dollars a year with virtually no overhead.

“You can run a business like that on an iPad and a cell phone,” says the former administration official. The godfather of this approach is ex-Clinton strategist Doug Sosnik, famous for conducting his business meetings in jeans from coffee shops and hotel lobbies. David Plouffe and Stephanie Cutter have both adopted the Sosnik model.

There’s also a discussion of OFA — once “Obama for America,” now “Organizing for America” — that’s well worth your attention. Commenting on OFA, however, is a separate post, so I’ll hold my thoughts until then. But again, do read, and keep your eyes on them.

Obama and “Bill Clinton money”

As you read, also keep in mind that Obama has a payday waiting as well. Bill Clinton is now worth $80 million and counting, and makes up to $500,000 per speech. A taste of how that works (my emphasis and paragraphing):

On December 21, 2000, President Bill Clinton signed a bill called the Commodities Futures Modernization Act. This law ensured that derivatives could not be regulated, setting the stage for the financial crisis.

Just two months later, on February 5, 2001, Clinton received  $125,000 from Morgan Stanley, in the form of a payment for a speech Clinton gave for the company in New York City.  A few weeks later, Credit Suisse also hired Clinton for a speech, at a $125,000 speaking fee, also in New York.  It turns out, Bill Clinton could make a lot of money, for not very much work.

They don’t call him the Big Dog for nothing. Quid pro quo? You decide. Either way, Obama’s lining up a ton of quid on the credit side of his ledger, for whatever quo awaits.

For each of the people named, there’s a dozen more

I’ll give Yves Smith at Naked Capitalism the next-to-last word:

This story makes the outrage over the Clintons’ selling the Lincoln bedroom seem so…quaint. For every anecdote Scheiber presents, it’s certain there are a dozen more like it. No wonder people like Gene Sperling, director of the National Economic Council, use the phrase “middle class” as if it was an alien phenomenon. The people in the Beltway money bubble don’t need to care about ordinary Americans, and so they don’t.

As you read though, keep this in mind — the Beltway Bandits aren’t the real perps. The real perps are their masters and mistresses, the people with the big-money stash from which these high-end paydays ultimately come. It takes billionaires feeding into this system to make millionaire paydays possible.

After all, everyone notices the millionaire athletes. No one notices the person who pays him, who can write that check week after week. In both cases, your blindness to the actual purse-holder is part of the plan.

After all:

Welcome to the world of your hope and their leftover change.


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Gaius Publius is a professional writer living on the West Coast of the United States.

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