Friday, April 23, 2010

Goldman's White House connections raise eyebrows

WASHINGTON — While Goldman Sachs' lawyers negotiated with the Securities and Exchange Commission over potentially explosive civil fraud charges, Goldman's chief executive visited the White House at least four times.

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White House logs show that Chief Executive Lloyd Blankfein traveled to Washington for at least two events with President Barack Obama, whose 2008 presidential campaign received $994,795 in donations from Goldman's employees and their relatives. He also met twice with Obama's top economic adviser, Larry Summers.

No evidence has surfaced to suggest that Blankfein or any other Goldman executive raised the SEC case with the president or his aides. SEC Chairwoman Mary Schapiro said in a statement Wednesday that the SEC doesn't coordinate enforcement actions with the White House or other political bodies.

Meanwhile, however, Goldman is retaining former Obama White House counsel Gregory Craig as a member of its legal team. In addition, when he worked as an investment banker in Chicago a decade ago, White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel advised one client who also retained Goldman as an adviser on the same $8.2 billion deal.

Goldman's connections to the White House and the Obama administration are raising eyebrows at a time when Washington and Wall Street are dueling over how to overhaul regulation of the financial world.

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