Daniel Schulman

Senior Editor

Based in DC, Dan covers politics and national security. His work has appeared in the Boston Globe Magazine, the Village Voice, the Columbia Journalism Review, and other publications. He is the author of the new Koch brothers biography, Sons of Wichita (Grand Central Publishing). Email him at dschulman (at) motherjones.com.

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Treasury's Transparency Two-Step

| Mon Jul. 13, 2009 9:07 AM EDT

Is Treasury not getting the message? When it comes to administering TARP, the agency has been warned again and again about its lack of transparency by the three government watchdogs monitoring the bailout. Back in January, the Government Accountability Office concluded that goings on at the agency were so opaque it was difficult to tell whether Treasury even had a "strategic vision" for TARP at all. The agency has even tried to stonewall Neil Barofsky, the Special Inspector General for TARP (or, SIGTARP), refusing to hand over certain documents he requested. Meanwhile, Elizabeth Warren, the Harvard law professor chairing the Congressional Oversight Panel, has said that "without more transparency and accountability...it is not possible to exercise meaningful oversight over Treasury's actions." It must have been all the more frustrating for her when COP recently requested specific information about the stock warrants Treasury received from bailout recipients only to be told that none would be forthcoming.

At issue is whether Treasury is maximizing taxpayers' return on investment, or giving bailed out banks sweetheart deals by allowing them to repurchase their warrants at bargain rates. So far it looks like the latter. The COP's latest report [PDF], released on Friday, found "eleven small banks have repurchased their warrants from Treasury for a total amount that the Panel estimates to be only 66 percent of its best estimate of their value," shorting taxpayers about $10 million overall. While the agency has only sold warrants from smaller banks so far, if it were to unload its holdings under the same terms, taxpayers could lose out on as much as $2.7 billion. Given this, it would seem particularly important to find out how exactly Treasury is valuing these warrants. But this is specifically the information the agency is refusing to part with.

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The Dodd Squad Fires Back

| Wed Jul. 8, 2009 4:42 PM EDT

The Chris-Dodd-is-no-K-Street-pawn campaign is ramping up. I just received an email from Colleen Flanagan, communications director for the Connecticut Democratic Party. She'd seen my blog item commenting on today's Roll Call story on the senator's recent efforts to "distance himself from K Street" and wanted to direct my attention to a press release the party issued earlier today defending Dodd's record.

It’s tough being a lobbyist in Washington these days, and Senator Chris Dodd isn’t making it any easier. Yet another story today in the DC press features unnamed lobbyists, who will speak only on the condition of anonymity, whining that they aren’t getting their way with the Banking Committee Chairman and Senator Kennedy’s top deputy on the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee.

The release goes on to list a series of quotes in which lobbyists whine that Dodd's shutting them out and ends with a quote from Flanagan:

“It speaks volumes that these industry insiders aren’t willing to be named, yet they continue to peddle their stories to anyone who will listen, trying to gain sympathy and a leg up on these critical legislative measures. The only sympathy these unnamed sources deserve to get is that they sound so silly in article after article complaining that Main Street has Dodd’s ear and not K Street.”

Dodd: Biting the Hands That Fund Him?

| Wed Jul. 8, 2009 10:02 AM EDT

When Chris Dodd's first quarter campaign disclosures were released this spring, revealing that just five of the hundreds of donors to the veteran senator's reelection bid were residents of his homestate of Connecticut, the political attack ads basically made themselves. One, released by one his Republican challengers, features a map showing the home states of his out-of-town contributors and the amounts derived from each locale: $90,000 from Massachusetts, $100,000 from Maryland and New York, $81,000 from Texas. And then, as game show style music plays, the zinger: just $4,250 from residents of the Nutmeg State.

Here at Mother Jones, Jonathan Stein and I focused on another aspect of Dodd's first quarter disclosures: the fact that, with his political future in jeopardy, the five-term senator and chair of the powerful Senate banking committee appeared to be receiving a personal bailout from his friends in the finance industry.

Despite his waning appeal in Connecticut, Dodd's fundraising effort picked up steam in the first three months of 2009. He raised just more than $1 million during the quarter, according to federal campaign disclosure records. Almost a third of that money—at least $299,000—came from banking and investment executives, financial industry trade groups, and finance-oriented political action committees (PACs). An additional $68,000 came from lobbyists, many with clients on Wall Street. And that doesn't count the formidable financial support Dodd has received from insurance and health care interests.

The Fog of Robert McNamara

| Mon Jul. 6, 2009 12:57 PM EDT

Robert McNamara's middle name was Strange—and the former defense secretary, World Bank president, and Ford executive certainly leaves behind an unusual and complicated legacy. Most of all, McNamara, who died this morning at the age of 93, will be remembered as one of the chief architects of the Vietnam War, a conflict—known to many as "McNamara's War"—with which he became synonymous. An intensely private man, he refused to address the war and his own doubts about its prosecution for decades, though he eventually ruminated on his misgivings and mistakes in his 1995 memoir, In Retrospect: The Tragedy and Lessons of Vietnam. Years later, it was a haunted McNamara who appeared in Errol Morris' acclaimed documentary, The Fog of War. His apparent contrition never silenced his critics, though, who considered him a war criminal whose mea culpa was too little too late.

In 1984, Mother Jones ran a cover story [PDF] by David Talbot, who would later found Salon.com, on the transformation of McNamara, former National Security Advisor McGeorge Bundy, and ex-CIA chief William Colby from Vietnam-era hawks to advocates of a nuclear weapons freeze. Talbot described McNamara as "the cost-control wizard who thought the war could be run like a Ford assembly line: body counts, kill ratios, bombing raids. And when he saw that it wasn't adding up, that it did not compute, he repeatedly lied—to Congress, to the press, to the American public."

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