Andy Kroll

Andy Kroll

Senior Reporter

Andy Kroll is Mother Jones' Dark Money reporter. He is based in the DC bureau. His work has also appeared at the Wall Street Journal, the Guardian, Men's Journal, the American Prospect, and TomDispatch.com, where he's an associate editor. Email him at akroll (at) motherjones (dot) com. He tweets at @AndyKroll.

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Tim Geithner on Why Obama Passed Over Elizabeth Warren to Head the Consumer Protection Bureau

| Mon May 12, 2014 5:13 PM EDT

There is no love lost between Tim Geithner, the former US treasury secretary, and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.). Geithner and Warren memorably clashed during hearings over the $700 billion bank bailout (Warren at the time chaired Congress' bailout watchdog panel), and many progressives believed that Geithner denied Warren her rightful place as the full-time director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

In his new book, Stress Test, Geithner denies blocking Warren and describes his relationship with the progressive favorite as "complicated." He praises her "smart and innovative" ideas about consumer protection, which, over dinner in Washington with Warren, he discovers are "more market-oriented, incentive-based, and practical than her detractors realized." In the same breath, though, Geithner jabs Warren for running her bailout oversight hearings "like made-for-YouTube inquisitions [rather] than serious inquiries." (Geithner's not the only one to point out Warren's embrace of the viral video clip: Listen to BuzzFeed reporter John Stanton's comments in this MSNBC roundtable.)

So why did the Obama administration pass over Warren to run the new bureau? Geithner writes, "There was a lot to be said for making Warren the first CFPB director, but one consideration trumped all others: The Senate leadership told the White House there was no chance she could be confirmed." Warren's eventual gig—a presidentially-appointed acting director charged with getting the new bureau up and running—was Geithner's idea, he says:

[Chief of staff] Mark Patterson and I thought about options, and after a few discussions with Rahm, I proposed that we make Warren the acting director, with responsibility for building the new bureau, while we continued to look for alternative candidates. This would give her a chance to be the public face of consumer protection, which she was exceptionally good at, and the ability to recruit a team of people to the new bureau right away, which she wouldn't have been allowed to do if she had been in confirmation limbo.

What stands out in Geithner's retelling is the depth of President Obama's admiration for Warren, and how much Obama agonized over what to do with Warren and the consumer bureau. The bureau was, after all, her idea. Here's what Geithner writes:

The President was torn. Progressives were turning Warren into another whose-side-are-you-on litmus test. The head of the National Organization for Women publicly accused me of blocking Warren, calling me a classic Wall Street sexist. Valerie Jarrett, the President's confidante from Chicago, was pushing hard for Warren, too, and she was worried I would stand in the way. At a meeting with Rahm and Valerie, I told the group that if the President wanted to appoint Warren to run the CFPB, I wouldn't try to talk him out of it, but everyone in the room knew she had no chance of being confirmed. The president, who almost never called me at home, made an exception on this issue. It was really eating away at him. He had a huge amount of respect for Warren, but he didn't want an endless confirmation fight, and he was hesitant to nominate someone so divisive that it would undermine the agency's ability to get up and running, as well as its ability to build broader legitimacy beyond the left.

As soon as Warren got to the CFPB, she began trying to lure away Geithner's own staffers. "She was unapologetic when my team finally confronted her about it," he writes, "and you had to respect her determination to get things done."

GOP Super-Donor on Politicians: "Most of These People...They're Unemployable"

| Mon May 5, 2014 3:41 PM EDT
GOP donor John Jordan, shaking a bottle of wine at a scantily clad woman in his parody video "Blurred Vines."

Meet John Jordan. As National Journal's Shane Goldmacher writes, Jordan runs his own vineyard, flies his own planes, cuts his own pop-song music video parodies (here he is with some barely clothed women in "Blurred Vines")—oh, and he's a huge donor to Republican candidates and committees. He raised and donated seven figures for Karl Rove's Crossroads organization in the 2012 cycle. Last year, he went solo, pumping $1.4 million into his own super-PAC, the deceptively named Americans for Progressive Action, in an effort to elect Republican Gabriel Gomez in a Massachusetts special US Senate election. (Gomez lost by 10 points.)

Goldmacher visited Jordan at this 1,450-acre vineyard in northern California and came back with no shortage of juicy quotes and flamboyant details. For all his political giving, it turns out, Jordan doesn't really like politicians:

"I'm not trying to spoon with them," he says. "I don't care. In fact, I try to avoid—I go out of my way to avoid meeting candidates and politicians." Why? "All too often, these people are so disappointing that it's depressing. Most of these people you meet, they're unemployable... It's just easier not to know."

Ouch.

Jordan dishes on Rove and his Crossroads operation, which spent $325 million during the 2012 election season with little success:

"With Crossroads all you got was, Karl Rove would come and do his little rain dance," Jordan says. He didn't complain aloud so much as stew. "You write them the check and they have their investors' conference calls, which are"—Jordan pauses here for a full five seconds, before deciding what to say next—"something else. You learn nothing. They explain nothing. They don't disclose anything even to their big donors." (Crossroads communications director Paul Lindsay responded via email, "We appreciated Mr. Jordan's support in 2012 and his frequent input since then." Rove declined to comment.)

Jordan's thoughts on his super-PAC's $1.4 million flop in 2013 offer a telling glimpse into the world of mega-donors, the type of people who can drop six or seven figures almost on a whim:

Jordan had blown through more than $1.4 million in two weeks on a losing effort—and he loved every second of it. "I never had any illusions about the probability of success. At the same time, somebody has to try, and you never know. You lose 100 percent of the shots you don't take, so why not do it?" he says. "And I've always thought it would be fun to do, and I had a great time doing it, frankly." Now, Jordan says that the Gomez race was just the beginning—a $1.4 million "potential iceberg tip" of future political efforts.

Who might Jordan support in 2016? He tells Goldmacher he hasn't decided. But he was impressed during a recent visit by the subject of Mother Jones' newest cover story, New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez.

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