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Obama will likely have to replace many key figures on his cabinet in the coming year, as is customary for Presidents elected to serve a second term in Washington.  Many have argued that Obama's second term will see a significant progressive shift.  Others have expressed skepticism.  While Washington incessantly focuses on the what the marginal tax rate will be for millionaires, the Patraeus scandal, and the "fiscal cliff", progressives should instead look at who Obama seeks to appoint to his cabinet in a second term with a keen eye. In almost every case, Obama looks poised to appoint someone who made their mark in the world as a corporate hack.

The four biggest vacancies likely to become open in the immediate aftermath of Obama's election relevant to progressive economic policies are Treasury, Attorney General, Commerce, and Chief of Staff (because the current Chief of Staff, Jack Lew, is a near lock for Treasury). Politico recently had a piece in which it floated the frontrunners for each position.  Below I analyze their record as corporate hacks.


Jack Lew, Obama's current Chief of Staff, is considered a near lock to be headed to Treasury.  During the middle of the financial crisis, Mr. Lew headed up Citi Group's "Alternative Investment" Group, which Lew ran into the ground to the tune of $20.1 Billion in risky investments:

Citi paid Lew $1.1 million for his year at Alternative Investments, according to an ethics disclosure report filed in January 2009. He was also eligible for an undisclosed bonus….His unit, though, lost as much as billions of dollars in 2008 as its bets turned sour. In the first quarter of 2008 alone the unit lost $509 million; the company stopped publicly disclosing the unit's individual numbers soon thereafter, but the part of the company that absorbed Alternative Investments lost $20.1 billion in 2008, according to the bank's filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Citigroup, as you might recall, also received $45 billion in TARP money.


Deval Patrick is thought by many on here to be a solid progressive, and likely 2016 Presidential Candidate.  However, Mr. Patrick comes with his own sordid history of profiting mightily off of corporate malfeasance:

In the top legal job at Texaco and Coca-Cola, Patrick defended the companies against accusations of environmental and human rights abuses in South America. On the board of the parent company of Ameriquest Mortgage Co., Patrick was "the point man," between the parent company's board of directors and an Ameriquest negotiating team to settle a $325 million predatory lending case in 49 states and clean up the company.
The Boston Globe article further notes that it was only after his association with Ameriquest, and the $360,000 per year salary that he drew from them became a campaign issue, that he resigned in 2006--ridiculously declaring that hte company was on track to be a more responsible company.  


Mr. Houchberg was born to the wealthy immigrant owners of Lillian Vernan Group Corp, a company he would get his start in.  After leaving Lillian, Mr. Hochberg would start his own investment firm, specializing in real estate, stock market, and venture capital investments.  He later would become a prominent Democratic fundraiser and would work at the Small Business Administration

While Mr. Hochberg made his mark as a relatively non-controversial businessman and fundraiser, his most controversial work has come in his most recent gig as head of the Ex-Im bank, the official credit export agency for the last several years.   As ThinkProgress reported back in October of this year, under his leadership, Ex-Im has launched plans to totally destroy the environment in all corners of the globe for profit:

It’s not surprising to hear over-eager developers link the Ex-Im Bank to these projects because the institution has a long history of supporting fossil fuel projects. And that track record is getting worse. It got so bad that the Sierra Club wrote an open letter to President Fred Hochberg after we witnessed first hand the destruction these projects are wreaking on communities and livelihoods (check out our blog on the Sasan coal project in India).

But our pleas were callously ignored as President Hochberg okay-ed a massive expansion of coal finance in every corner of the globe. From Kusile in South Africa, to Sasan in India, to Xcoal in the U.S., to the recently proposed mines in Australia, it appears that Ex-Im Bank cares little for the environmental damage the institution is causing around the world — not to mention the reputation of this administration.

You may be touched to know that Hochberg considers his current job as CEO of Ex-Im Bank to be "the best job he's ever had."


Mr. Donolin is perhaps the most transparent corporate hack.  His history includes being the Vice President of, and registered lobbyist for Fannie Mae.  Before workign for the Obama transition team in 2008, Mr. Donolin was a partner in the law firm  O'Melveny and Myers, a firm which represents clients such as Exxon Mobile.  

Thus in all four of Obama's biggest vacancies, the current names being floated all have a history of corporate shilling.  Look, I'm not saying that being a corporate shill necessarily discounts you for public service.  This is especially true in Patrick's case because he has quasi-apologized for the actions of Ameriquest, and has run a campaign that was overtly progressive in between his corporate hacking and now.

But is it really too much to ask that Obama tap at least one solid progressive with no history of selling himself to the highest bidder to head one of these agencies?  There are countless liberal economists with a fundamental understanding of Wall Street htat haven't made their living ruining this country.  There are countless non-profit lawyers, and public servants without records of shilling for Texaco that could be our next AG.  

Of course the bright side is that one could argue that any of the above names are improvements over the current cabinet which is also filled largely with corporate hacks.  But what does it say about Obama's second term that these are the names being floated about?

Note: EPA is also likely to undergo a transition from the great Lisa Jackson to Robert Perciasepe (who as best as I can tell is a good fit).  Additionally, Ken Salazar leaving the Dept. of Interior can only be an improvement.

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Comment Preferences

  •  cue third-party endorsement... (4+ / 0-)

    .... three... two... one....

    We got the future back.

    by G2geek on Thu Nov 15, 2012 at 08:26:48 AM PST

    •  actually I voted Obama (4+ / 0-)

      would do it again if the election was tomorrow.

      Would you care to justify these selections or would you rather paint me as a straw man third party stereotype?

      •  there's a difference between... (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        llywrch, FG, Deep Texan

        ... criticizing specific cabinet appointments, and characterizing them all ad-hom as "Corporate Hacks."

        I had plenty of criticism about Geithner and one of the other financial guys from similar background back in 2008.  

        The latter's name escapes me at the moment but he was going on and on and endlessly on about growth growth growth: you'd think he'd just figured out how to map an infinite plane onto the surface of a Euclidean solid* and was angling for a Field Prize**.  

        However I did it without using the kind of language that gets written off as "stereotypical leftist complainerizing."

        Really: there are more effective ways to criticize.  


        *Mapping an infinite plane onto the surface of a Euclidean solid:  Mathematical definition for the belief that unlimited growth is possible on a finite planet.

        **Field Prize:  the Math equivalent of a Nobel.  

        In other words, growthism is magical thinking.

        We got the future back.

        by G2geek on Thu Nov 15, 2012 at 09:02:34 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  What's America Coming To When People In Government (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      G2geek, FG, virginislandsguy, Deep Texan

      Once worked for companies?????

      Too Folk For You. - Schmidting in the Punch Bowl - verb - Committing an unexpected and underhanded political act intended to "spoil the party."

      by TooFolkGR on Thu Nov 15, 2012 at 08:39:12 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  total mischaracterizatin of my argument (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        The Hamlet

        Look--private sector experience is one thing.

        But putting someone in charge of the AG when they have a history of helping powerful companies evade justice is troublesome--no?

        Putting someone in charge of the treasury who was involved in the risky betting that sunk the economy in the first place...troublesome no?

        Having your chief of staff be a long time lobbyist has to worry you about who Obama is trying to reach out to.

        •  It is in fact a completely accurate (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          virginislandsguy, Deep Texan

          characterization of your argument. You present no evidence other than some people have at some point worked in non-government jobs. Your description of ExIm bank is a gross exaggeration that doesn't even interpret the article you cite accurately. Your complaints about Donolin and Patrick boil down to the fact that they are lawyers.

          •  Note: (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            I'm a lawyer.

            I have a bias against myself?

            You seem to like to make blanket declarations without any substance to back them up.  

            My article does not criticize Donolin or Patrick for merely being lawyers--but the type of lawyers they were.  

            And you say that I misinterpreted the ExIm article--but everything is basically a direct quote from ThinkProgress and you provide no insight into why I've misinterpreted it.

            I find your reflexive defenses of these guys to be rather authoritarian.

            •  TPM said that ExIm bank will pay for a coal export (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              virginislandsguy, Deep Texan

              project. They do it all the time. You make into 'plans to totally destroy the environment in all corners of the globe' (direct quote). Yeah, some of the exaggeration was in the original article but you amped it up even more.

              I don't know what is your opinion about other lawyers. Maybe you think that only lawyers working as prosecutors are good? How do I know? But you present no arguments other than these guys worked for big law firms that had some clients you don't like. You don't even claim that they did legal work for these clients.

          •  They were lawyers at corrupt companies. Guilt by (0+ / 0-)

            association? Perhaps. But should not cabinet secretaries bu as pure as Caesar's wife. That's Shakespeare by the way. Look it up it will do you some good.

      •  What is America coming to when people (0+ / 0-)

        who work in government worked for corrupt companies. There, I fixed it for you.

    •  Cue the calls to HOS (0+ / 0-)


      •  Cue the defense of selling our government (0+ / 0-)

        to corporate America!  Actaully, I notice that I'm slow in calling it, since TooFolk is already leaping to the defense of corporate America.

        Maybe we can get Tony Hayward at Interior?

        This has been a golden age for confirmation bias. - David Brooks

        by Mindful Nature on Thu Nov 15, 2012 at 11:15:58 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Where is a link to (8+ / 0-)

    Obama's final picks?  Great diary to go with the ones that complain he's filling his cabinet with Senators.

    " My faith in the Constitution is whole; it is complete; it is total." Barbara Jordan, 1974

    by gchaucer2 on Thu Nov 15, 2012 at 08:26:49 AM PST

    •  the politico article i linked (0+ / 0-)

      names all four of these guys as leaders...

      •  Ooooohhhh Politico! (7+ / 0-)


        " My faith in the Constitution is whole; it is complete; it is total." Barbara Jordan, 1974

        by gchaucer2 on Thu Nov 15, 2012 at 08:35:16 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  If your point is that Politico is unreliable (5+ / 0-)

          fine I admit that what they say may not end up being who he nominates...

          That's part of the reason I wrote this diary!  Progressives need to insist on him appointing at least one progressive to these four spots...

        •  The better question is... (4+ / 0-)

          why are you so unwilling to engage in substance...

          Do you think Jack Lew is a good progressive appointment for treasury?  

          •  There appears to be a great deal of self- (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            The Hamlet

            righteousness when people disagree with some posts.
            I don't know if that's the correct word, but rather than just point out where they have information that is contrary to the diary, there appears to be a need to be mean about it.
            I don't agree with most of your conjectures and if you're basing it on Politico, you need to fact check what you're writing.
            Regardless, people don't post diaries to be denigrated unless they are Trolling and the level of plain meanness is unconscionable and I say that knowing I'm going to be dumped on.
            Se le guerre.

            "If you tell the truth, you won't have to remember anything", Mark Twain

            by Cruzankenny on Thu Nov 15, 2012 at 09:09:00 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  I'm a big boy (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              The Hamlet, llywrch

              I can take it.

              I just wish the meanness dealt in substance with what I had to say about the 4 men who are rumored to be Obama's picks.

              Instead it seems they would rather talk about anything else--3rd parties, the unreliability of politico...

              Politico is not the only one reporting these names--i've seen them in the washington post as well.  And given obama's current cabinet--it's reasonable to assume he will appoint corporate people.

              •  My point is, why do you have to take it? (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                virginislandsguy, Deep Texan

                I have more of a wait and see attitude concerning who he appoints.
                I've noticed one thing, when it comes to cabinet appointees, I've seen him sacrifice ideology for experience and he can always ask for their resignation. But when it comes to appointments that count, like the Supreme Court, he combines qualifications with ideology very successfully.

                "If you tell the truth, you won't have to remember anything", Mark Twain

                by Cruzankenny on Thu Nov 15, 2012 at 09:26:11 AM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  We do not need four more years of the same (0+ / 0-)

                  corporate policies. If America had wanted that she would have voted for Romney. The answer to the cabinet issue is better Democrats. There has to be qualified people out there who do not have the smell of corporate corruption surrounding them. This stuff only encourages cynicism. If we had wanted a pro Wall Street President Romney would have been the better choice. But Romney got his ass handed to him. Should that at least count for something?

  •  Don't forget that Deval Patrick also signed (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    a horrible three-strikes bill into law in Mass.

    “In the beginning there was nothing, which exploded.” Terry Pratchett

    by 420 forever on Thu Nov 15, 2012 at 08:32:27 AM PST

  •  It really must be Thursday. (5+ / 0-)

    Diarist has managed to severely annoy me by saying that my Governor is a corporate hack.

    First of all, Gov. Patrick has said that he intends to serve his full term.   So I don't expect him to change his job until 2014.   Our Lt. Gov is unelectable so I doubt he'd leave office before making sure he had a worthy successor.

    Secondly, he was a lawyer and there is a such thing as the Canon of Ethics where a lawyer has to be a zealous advocate for their client.   What next, you'll accuse Senator-elect Warren of being a corporate hack too?

    And thirdly, I know Gov. Patrick.   I have talked with him on a few occasions and he strikes me a genuine, compassionate and wise man.   And so I can't take this diary as being serious with that.

    I'm guessing the diarist wants Michael Moore in the Cabinet or someone of that Firedoglake ilk.

    •  Two points (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      The Hamlet

      1) I'm a lawyer.  I'm very aware of the Cannon of Ethics.  I'm also aware that as lawyers you get to chose your own clients, and your own firm.  He chose to represent corporations against charges of human rights abuse, environmental destruction and mortgage fraud.  That is not what a progressive would do.

      2) So if I criticize someone for being corporate that means I want Micheal Moore in the Cabinet?  Please there are plenty of qualified individuals who have no ties to corporate law or lobbying.

    •  Don't know why (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      rivercard, Shahryar

      you people here are giving this diarist a hard time. Did you all read his links to the Atlantic article and the discussion on Americablog  by John Aravosis ? Neither of these articles are anti-Obama they are both written by good writers from the left. They are discussing the direction this new administration is going to take.  

      Seems to me that now that the election is over people should talk about the direction and who he appoints in his 2 term. Both articles in the links talk about 'an inside and an outside game to advance progressive ideals.'

      His last administration was nothing but corporate hacks. The Job's czar was Immelt a CEO from GE for god sakes. Geithner? The CEO from Chase, Daley? There are lots of Democrat's who feel that we need to push hard to advance against the corporate hacks running the show. Your reasons given for liking your corporate hack governor are pretty lame.

      Attacking FDL and MM are a good indication to me that you consider 'the democratic end of the party' traitorous. They are pushing to include progressive's in a Democratic cabinet. There is nothing wrong with that.

       Hey, we won now the real work starts. This is a Democratic site and last I heard progressives and liberals who want a less corporate government and some democratic representation, voted for Obama, Michael Moore included.      

      •  Real simple (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        he said something critical of the President.  That always draws out the gang of folks who want to harrass any critics.

        And yes, they consider the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party traitorous.  

        This has been a golden age for confirmation bias. - David Brooks

        by Mindful Nature on Thu Nov 15, 2012 at 11:17:56 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  Actually, I am in the Democratic wing of the (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Deep Texan

        Democratic party and I got some flak for saying that Obama has governed like a centrist.   And I was a Howard Dean campaign volunteer in Nashua, NH during 2004.   I was also an Obama supporter from the beginning.    So please don't pull the progressive cred card.

        And I was very annoyed because I don't like it when people who don't live in my state attack my governor for providing a zealous defense for his clients.   I am not going to hold it against Patrick that he wanted to go where the big bucks are: corporate law.   I am not going to hold it against him that he probably used that money to pay off his probably substantial student loan debt.   And yes, Deval Patrick is a real Democrat.   If we can't agree to that, then I see no point in furthering this discussion.

        As for Michael Moore and FDL:  Michael Moore wanted to "kill the bill" concerning the PPACA.   Jane Hamsher called Bernie Sanders (Bernie Sanders!) a sell-out for voting for it.   My point is that FDL is very often completely and utterly wrong about things.   Hamsher is much more interesting in petty "purity" pie fights(and possible third party advocacy) than actually getting progressive policy outcomes.   One thing I learned from the Dean campaign is that "politics is the art of the possible."

        So I'll take those slings and arrows from the Obama-can-do-no-wrong crowd and from the Obama-can-do-no-right crowd, and I'll actually work to help the Democratic Party get to those progressive outcomes.  

  •  Patrick has said he will not leave Gov spot... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    pistolSO, TheLizardKing, Deep Texan

    for AG flat out in a Boston paper yesterday.  He's going to serve out his second term and go back to private sector in 2014 as he promised his wife he would.

    They have the billionaires, We have the Big Dog!

    by Jacoby Jonze on Thu Nov 15, 2012 at 08:48:25 AM PST

  •  I notice that (5+ / 0-)

    the diarist left out the laudatory portions of the Lew bio...the Nation author indicated that progressives should balance out their opinion with some of his progressive history as well as his time at Citi.
    And,as far as his Citi stint...what exactly is the gripe here?
    That he invested in Paulson's fund? That his unit might have lost money in his year at Citi? What exactly is wrong with his being employed for a year at Citi?
    Thin gruel imo. Give me a name if you dislike Lew so much.

    This just in: top talent usually works for corporate america at some point in their life in this country.
    If we exclude them from eligibility for service, we are cutting out a lot of top talent.

    •  that is so anti progressive (0+ / 0-)

      to say that top talent usually works for corporate america.


      •  It's the truth. If you think that reality has an (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Deep Texan

        anti-progressive bias, it's your problem.

      •  Krugman worked (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        virginislandsguy, Deep Texan

        for Reagan,right?

        I would suggest a resume without any working experience outside of the academic towers might not be the best background for the job.

        •  Just because he worked as an economic adviser to (0+ / 0-)

          Reagan does not mean that he supported Supply Side economics. I suggest you examine his work. Then examine the work of Obama's advisers. What did they write? What decisions did they make? For all you know Krugman may have been a lone voice in the wilderness. After all he only lasted a year. Working for Reagan for a year is weak tea compared to being a Master of the Universe responsible in part for plunging the world's economy into chaos.

          •  And Lew (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Deep Texan

            was only at Citi for a year.
            Show me evidence that he was one of those responsible for plunging the world into chaos.

            I think we all need to examine the work of these individuals before painting them as evil for working at an institution.

            •  Because he ran a fund that returned 3 cents on the (0+ / 0-)

              dollar by 2008. He helped run Vikram Pandit's operation that ended up losing 1.8 billion dollars. I would not hire the janitor that cleaned out the wastepaper baskets at an operation like that. He bet against the housing market in 2006 and lost money. How is that possible when the housing market started to collapse in 2005 when mortgage bankers started going belly up. Lew is a very, very unlucky short seller.

              •  According to (0+ / 0-)

                the linked article,they did not determine what losses were related to his operation as they were folded into a bigger unit that lost money.

                I know that Paulson made 4.2 billion in 2008,so I find it hard to believe that Lew's investment in his fund lost money.

    •  BTW since you asked... (4+ / 0-)

      I'd tap an academic who knows wall street, but isn't a part of the inner circle that sunk it and has ideas about how to actually reform wall street.

      I would imagine there are dozens of people who would fit that bill.

      •  Elizabeth Warren already has a job <n/t> (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Deep Texan

        Labor is prior to, and independent of, capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed. Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration. -- K.Marx A.Lincoln

        by N in Seattle on Thu Nov 15, 2012 at 11:04:23 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  Might have lost some money? The unit nearly (0+ / 0-)

      took down the whole company. Which raises a basic question of competence. But wait, if you are from Wall Street you are magic. Even if you did a shit job and lost tons of money on poor decisions. Or is responsibility only for the poors?

      Show me the top talent that worked for corporate America. Tim Geitner? You mean the guy in charge of the NY Fed when the economy fell apart? Or Larry Summers who as president of Harvard University said women were not cut out for science? Or Bob Rubin who along with Summers stopped the CFTC from regulating the credit derivatives market which set up the economic collapse? Or Franklin Raines who ran Fannie when everything was falling apart?

      These are the guys who are in government and you seem to want them to stay. Even though they completely fucked up the economy and kept their fat pay checks and bonuses.

      The whole corporate talent should be in government because they are the best qualified nonsense came in with Reagan and should have gone out with him. Instead it lingers like a fart in an elevator. What we need are regulators who believe in regulation. Who have an adversarial relationship with those they regulate. Herein lies the root of corruption. Plato identified it millenia ago in the Republic. Yet we have not learned the lesson.

  •  I assume this is a rhetorical question. (6+ / 0-)

    Why in the world would you expect the man whose original economic team leaders were Geithner & Summers & who appointed, as you put it, a corporate hack as AG to suddenly become FDR?  PBO, despite his initial work experience as a community organizer, is a corporatist through & through & through.  (And the Dems are more a corporatist -- i.e., center to center-right -- party than a progressive one.  Hell, even our senior Senator from NY is a shameless Wall Street shill.).  Anyone who expected PBO to be substantially different in a 2nd term was engaging in the purest wishful thinking.  

    Full disclosure:  I voted for Obama because the other guy was such a complete dick & the R's are reactionary lunatics.  But I don't see any reason to expect PBO to be any better for the progressive cause in his 2nd term than he was in his 1st.

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