The first half of Fox Business Network financial reporter Charlie Gasparino's new book, "Bought and Paid For: The Unholy Alliance Between Barack Obama and Wall Street" lives up to its title, as the author attempts to show that the White House rewarded some of its high-profile campaign donors in the financial industry by structuring the massive bailout in a way that let the biggest banks earn huge profits.
But in the second half, Gasparino undermines his own argument by claiming that Obama turned into an eat-the-rich populist after the bailout fueled public outrage. The chiefs of Wall Street, Gasparino writes, then turned their back on the president and the Democrats by giving their time and contributions to the Republicans.
Aside from adding a few new additions to the long list of Wall Street executives who have a fondness for the F-word, the book doesn't contain many revelations. Two of the book's two biggest "scoops" have been previously reported:
- In June 2007, candidate Obama had a "secretive meeting" in a private dining room at Johnny's Half Shell restaurant in Washington, D.C. with Lehman Brothers CEO Dick Fuld, Merrill Lynch number-two Greg Fleming, BlackRock chief Larry Fink, former Fed chairman Paul Volcker, Goldman Sachs executive Gary Cohn and Bear Stearns mortgage-bond whiz Warren Spector. At the meeting, Obama "turned up the charm" and convinced the Wall Street crew to set aside their misgivings and support his candidacy.
Gasparino excitedly lists prominent Wall Street executives who helped Obama during the election such as Blackstone partner Mark Gallogly -- "the man largely responsible for convincing the bankers to meet with Obama" -- and JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon, who has been called Obama's "shadow Treasury Secretary" and apparently convinced many of his colleagues to write contribute campaign cash. "We knew each other from Chicago," Dimon supposedly boasted to his pals, recalling his days as CEO of Chicago-based Bank One.
In typically overheated prose that highlights the premise of the book, Gasparino writes about Obama's charm campaign: "The man who found common ground with revolutionaries and socialists convinced them both [Gallogly and investor Jacques Leviant] he was at heart a capitalist."
He also speculates that Morgan Stanley has become Obama's favorite bank. The bank, Gasparino writes, handled key deals --like the sale of government's ownership positions following the bailouts -- brokered by Morgan executive Tom Nides, one of Obama's biggest fundraisers on the Street and a close friend of White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel.
Gasparino also claims that Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein and Morgan Stanley's former CEO John Mack used to commiserate with each other about the hate mail they received at the height of the bailout, with Blankfein saying "I get seventy-five to 100 of those a day."
Former Citigroup chairman and Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin, who has been much criticized for helping push the deregulation of the financial services industry, is described as a close adviser to Obama -- though Gasparino reports that Rubin felt the president relies too much on economic neophytes. When he expressed that sentiment one day, Obama shot back, "That's why I have Valerie," a reference to Valerie Jarrett, a Chicago attorney and lobbyist.
And, as teased above, the book includes plenty of off-color quotes from Wall Street players and assorted political poobahs.
- At the height of the wrangling over financial regulatory reform legislation, Dimon grew so exasperated about the plethora of tough new amendments that he screamed at JPMorgan's lobbyists in DC: "What the fuck are you guys doing for us! You guys are worthless!" He also apparently directed his anger at New York's Senators Chuck Schumer and Kristin Gillibrand, once telling the latter over the phone that she was a "sellout" and "good for nothing." Later, he directed the bank's employees to start spreading their money around - i.e. to Republicans. Wall Street executives later huddled with top Republicans, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and John Cornyn, in a private room at Manhattan's Peninsula Hotel.