Al Franken joins Elizabeth Warren in the Obama opposition

Why do Franken and Warren hate Anthony Weiss? Is it because of corporate inversions, or is there more?


WASHINGTON, December 30, 2014 – Senator Al Franken first announced his opposition to President Obama’s nominee for Treasury Department undersecretary for domestic finance on December 10. He wrote then that he was troubled by Antonio Weiss’s work on corporate inversions and international mergers, adding, “Wall Street’s perspective is already well-represented in the Administration.”

The Minnesota Democrat restated his opposition on Sunday, sending supporters an email with a link to a petition asking Obama to withdraw Weiss’s nomination. “More than six years after the crash, the American economy is still recovering,” Franken wrote. “We got into that mess because we were willing to let Wall Street police itself. Foxes make poor guards of henhouses. We know that through bitter experience, and I’m not willing to let it happen again.”

Franken joins Massachusetts Democrat Elizabeth Warren in opposing Weiss. A Warren adviser said in mid-November that Warren “is a no on Weiss.” Like Franken, Warren considers Weiss’s work on corporate inversions a disqualification, as is his insider status on Wall Street.

Warren wrote in the Huffington Post, “The White House and Treasury have strongly denounced inversions, and rightly so. But they undercut their own position by advancing Mr. Weiss. Already Senator Grassley has denounced the move as hypocritical, and Senator Durbin has expressed his opposition to the nomination over the inversion issue.”

According to Warren, “The over-representation of Wall Street banks in senior government positions sends a bad message.” At the same time, business groups have been concerned that there have been almost no corporate executives or financiers in top Treasury posts.

Weiss is head of global investing at Lazard, and at 32 he became a partner there. His nomination for the undersecretary job drew warm praise from Wall Street. Supporters say that Weiss will bring a clear understanding of market operations to the administration. He coauthored a report with the Center for American Progress on reforming the tax system to help the middle class, and has drawn praise from people within the progressive movement.

His politics are liberal-progressive, but that doesn’t impress Warren. Critics like Warren and Franken have cast their opposition partly in terms of experience. Warren observed that Weiss’s background is largely in Europe and in mergers and acquisitions, while the domestic finance job oversees domestic policy and the implementation of regulations like Dodd-Frank.

In fact, it appears that Warren’s opposition to Weiss is part of a general distrust of anyone with practical financial expertise. Her background is law, and it appears that during her stint at Treasury, she never developed an appreciation or understanding for finance and economics.

Warren has made a name for herself as a critic of Wall Street, but has opposed others who got that expertise elsewhere than on Wall Street. Former Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner was a Warren target for his work on the Troubled Asset Relief Program, which she believed would be a huge giveaway to banks. When a first round of “stress tests” on U.S. banks showed that TARP had been effective, Warren demanded that Geithner redo the tests.

Former Treasury undersecretary, Harvard president and chief World Bank economist Lawrence Summers also worked on TARP. In spite of his outstanding qualifications as an economist, an academic and as a public policy expert, Warren was relentless in her opposition to his nomination to the chairmanship of the Fed. She cared only about TARP.

The Obama Administration left the nomination hanging until Summers withdrew his name, and in the process seemed to repudiate one of its most important policies to deal with the 2008 market crash.

Warren and Franken have come out on the Weiss nomination not as liberals, but as populists. Like Tea Partyers, they believe that government economic policies favor Wall Street, and they distrust anyone who has the experience to change those policies in a way that helps the middle class. They are joined by other liberals like New Hampshire’s Jeanne Shaheen, Dick Durbin of Illinois, and independent Bernie Sanders from Vermont.

Aside from the populism, Warren and Frank probably opposed Weiss in an attempt to derail the budget resolution that was passed earlier this month. The “CRomnibus” bill contained language that loosened some provisions of Dodd-Frank, and the role of Citigroup lobbyists in inserting those provisions explains the Warren’s focus on them in her “enough is enough” speech from the Senate floor in which she denounced the Weiss nomination.

If Obama decides to hold firm in his support for Weiss – a very big if – he sets up an interesting battle within the Democratic Party. It is a battle that right now sees most Republicans undecided but probably favorable to Weiss, but with some, like Iowa’s Charles Grassley, prepared to side with Warren and Franken.

Warren was able to scare Obama into diffidence on Summers, but her opposition might help Weiss, a man who appears clearly qualified to serve as Treasury Undersecretary for Domestic Finance.


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  • Impasto

    Funny how the two of them both voted against GMO labeling, as well.

    • Kelly

      Funny how we had no banking crashes from 1933 to 1980. Then in the early 80’s we passed legislation that “contained language that loosened some provisions” of Glass -Steagall.

      What happened? Well, these changes to the law allowed for American Continental/Lincoln Savings & Loan to make highly risky investments with their depositors’ money. Meaning the banks can gamble with your money and not their own. Profits for them if they gamble well. Losses for you if they gamble poorly.

      Then we deregulated more in 2000, and then gigantic tax cuts for the country, especially the wealthy, in 2001 and 2003. Then finally came the Crash in 2008 that was inevitable.

      As far as nominee Weiss is concerned, I don’t see why co-authoring a report on tax reform to help the middle class makes him an objective or neutral candidate. Has he ever pushed for legislation or pushed for Wall Street to demand tax breaks for any demographic outside of the Wall Street culture? No.

      Or prove me wrong if he has.

      Also he was into mergers & acquisitions in Europe.
      Iceland had a banking collapse and Greece went bankrupt.
      Not to mention the whole European economy has been doing poorly for almost a decade. I’m not saying Weiss is responsible for this, but I don’t see how his experience is something to be marveled at.

      As has been stated, Wall Street has plenty of representation in the government.

      Aside from the oil industry, no group has more lobbyists than Wall Street when it comes to making sure their wants and needs are represented in constructing bills for legislation.

      And it’s not like Weiss is some sort of “Horse whisperer” where he has some special gift for understanding on some higher level how Wall Street works. Plenty of smart minds in the Treasury Dept who have many goals, one of which is to make sure no part of the country suffers economically.

      The author of this article, Jim Picht, states, “In fact, it appears that Warren’s opposition to Weiss is part of a general distrust of anyone with practical financial expertise.”

      Last I checked, there were plenty of people on Wall Street who had “practical financial expertise” back in 2008 and yet the market crashed and the American Taxpayer had to bail out the big bankers who had “practical financial expertise”. JOKE!

      Picht also states, “Like Tea Partyers, they(Warren/Franken) believe that government economic policies favor Wall Street, and they distrust anyone who has the experience to change those policies in a way that helps the middle class.”

      Uh, yeah. I don’t remember any Wall Street insiders who pushed for policies that helped the middle class. And gambling with depositer’s money to make them more money where they assume all the risk isn’t a policy for helping the middle class.

      Picht further states, that Warren believed TARP “would be a huge giveaway to the banks”.

      It wasn’t? Then what was it?

      Furthermore, there were executives who tried to take advantage of golden parachute payments, some of which were successful. (i.e. Lisa Binder)

      Yes Picht, Weiss may be clearly qualified for the role of Treasury Department undersecretary for domestic finance.

      However, where his loyalties lie and what policies he will push for are clearly unclear.

  • Moohammy

    It’s a bit much to state that they “hate” Weiss.
    Maybe what they hate is the bankster toadie that Obama has shown himself to be–the gangster banksters’ best pet.