FEBRUARY 04, 2009
In what could turn out to be yet another cabinet disaster, the president has chosen a Commerce Secretary who as a senator voted for a multi billion-dollar taxpayer bailout of a bank that he has a huge financial stake in.
If you recall, Barack Obama’s first choice to head the Commerce Department—New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson—was forced to withdraw a few weeks ago amid a corruption scandal currently under federal investigation. The feds are probing Richardson for helping a California-based company with a history of bad work get a lucrative state contract in New Mexico after it donated $100,000 to the governor’s Political Action Committee.
After much pondering, Obama picked a Republican senator from New Hampshire, Judd Gregg, to head the agency that promotes and develops the nation’s foreign and domestic commerce. Hoping to dissolve bipartisan gridlock, the president announced his choice with great fanfare as a "master of reaching across the aisle."
The press releases and press-conference rhetoric failed to mention, however, a huge conflict-of-interest that certainly brings Gregg’s character into question. A major newspaper reports that Gregg, one of the richest members of Congress, owns millions of dollars in stock and savings in Bank of America. As a senator he enthusiastically voted to approve last fall’s $700 billion bank bailout. A big chunk of the taxpayer cash—$45 billion—went to none other than Bank of America.
Not surprisingly, Gregg was the lead Republican negotiator who heavily advocated the government rescue and he broke with his party to push for the release of the second half of the bailout money.
Besides millions of dollars in bank stock, Gregg also has blue-chip stocks in major oil and communication companies as well as real estate holdings. If he gets confirmed the assets will be sold or put in a blind trust, according to his spokesperson, who assures that Gregg’s personal finances had nothing to do with his ardent support for the bailout.
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