Down in the polls, Braun attacks Emanuel’s investment banking job
BY FRAN SPIELMAN City Hall Reporterfirstname.lastname@example.org February 10, 2011 2:00PM
Updated: February 10, 2011 7:18PM
Dropping in the polls as the election nears, mayoral candidate Carol Moseley Braun on Thursday hit rival Rahm Emanuel where she believes he is most vulnerable: on his stint as a board member of home mortgage giant Freddie Mac and as an investment banker who made $18.5 million in two years.
After leaving the Clinton White House and before running for Congress, Emanuel parlayed his political connections into a fortune at an investment banking firm run by Clinton fund-raiser Bruce Wasserstein.
The money was primarily earned from eight clients involved in mergers and acquisitions. One of them created Exelon, parent company of Commonwealth Edison.
He also made at least $360,000 as a Freddie Mac director after, what Braun and others have called a “sweetheart appointment” by President Bill Clinton.
On Thursday, Braun demanded that Emanuel use some of his $14 million in campaign contributions to explain what he did on the Freddie Mac board “when the house of cards was coming down” on the housing market.
She also demanded to know why the Obama administration — for which Emanuel served as White House chief of staff — has refused to release the minutes of Freddie Mac meetings.
And Braun asked why Emanuel failed to register as a lobbyist after joining investment banking firm Wasserstein, Perella when, by Emanuel’s own admission, he was engaged in “relationship” banking.
“Who pays you $18.5 million not to make phone calls to politicians and elected officials and regulatory agencies in a business that requires those permits? It’s kind of walking and talking like a duck. I just suggest you guys figure out that it was,” she said.
Why should voters choosing Chicago’s next mayor be concerned about Emanuel’s stint on Freddie Mac or the fortune he made as an investment banker?
“One, making private money off of public neglect. The lack of transparency regarding financial gain from trading on public office, which is an important matter. And second, asleep at the switch,” Braun said.
“Assuming for a moment that he paid any attention, then why didn’t he sound the alarm bell or do something about the pulling on the string that brought down the house of cards in the mortgage industry?”
Last month, Emanuel told the Chicago Sun-Times editorial board that there are “two types” of investment bankers. One group includes “numbers people. The other group includes those who “deal with relationships.”
“I was what was considered at that time ... relationship banking—and that’s what I did,” he said. Emanuel’s spokesman Ben LaBolt responded to Braun latest salvo the same way.
“When he left the Clinton White House, he got offers to be a lobbyist and turned them down. He didn’t write a kiss-and-tell book. He worked on private sector transactions in the private sector, like one which helped keep a major corporate headquarters and thousands of jobs in Chicago. He didn’t lobby,” LaBolt said.
As for Emanuel’s stint on Freddie Mac, LaBolt said, “He didn’t serve on the audit committee and wasn’t named in any report on the matter.”
Mayoral challenger Gery Chico has also charged that Emanuel “sat on his hands, looked the other way and took the cash” when presented with an “Enron-style” scandal at Freddie Mac that forced the mortgage giant to re-state $5 billion in earnings and pay $585 million in fines and legal settlements.
As for a recent WLS-TV Channel 7 poll that show her dropping like a rock in support from likely voters — into the single-digits, percentage-wise — Braun sloughed it off.
“One of those polls was taken by a guy who contributed to the other candidate. He’s getting contributions from this pollster, then telling you guys, ‘She’s losing.’ Well, I don’t think so,” she said.
LaBolt said the campaign does not have a record of any contributions from either Channel 7 pollster Richard Day or his firm.