Enterprising work by the Associated Press's Matt Apuzzo and Daniel Wagner reveals Secretary of the Treasury Tim Geithner's appointment calendar for the year. You will not be surprised to learn where Geithner gets all his ideas. The allotment of secretarial time, in this post-conflict-of-interest era, seems to be based entirely on prior relationships:
After one hectic week in May in which the U.S. faced the looming bankruptcy of General Motors and the prospect that the government would take over the automaker, Geithner wrapped up his night with a series of phone calls.
First he called Lloyd Blankfein, the chairman and CEO at Goldman. Then he called Jamie Dimon, the boss at JPMorgan. Obama called next, and as soon as they hung up, Geithner was back on the phone with Dimon.
While all this was going on, Geithner got a call from Rep. Xavier Becerra, a California Democrat who serves on committees that help set tax and budget policies.
Becerra left a message.
In the first seven months of Geithner's tenure, his calendars reflect at least 80 contacts with Blankfein, Dimon, Citigroup Chairman Richard Parsons or Citigroup CEO Vikram Pandit.
Geithner had more contacts with Citigroup than he did with Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., the lawmaker leading the effort to approve Geithner's overhaul of the financial system. Geithner's contacts with Blankfein alone outnumber his contacts with Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., chairman of the Senate Banking Committee.
Partly this is explained by the extraordinary clout of these companies. Goldman, JPMorgan and Citigroup are among the dominant players on Wall Street. Their executives can move not just markets but entire economies. Treasury invested heavily in all of them to keep the industry afloat.
But size does not tell the whole story. Treasury has a huge financial stake in North Carolina-based Bank of America Corp., but CEO Ken Lewis appears on Geithner's calendars only three times. Morgan Stanley CEO John Mack also appears three times.
Geithner's relationship with Goldman, JPMorgan, Citigroup and their executives dates to his tenure as president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. As one of Wall Street's top regulators, Geithner worked closely with executives and built relationships he brought with him to his corner office at the Treasury Department.
John Carney notes that Geithner's list of BFFs doesn't include some of the biggest players in the field, including Wells Fargo. There's also an interesting though imperfect geographical overlap, where your chances of being a FOG increase the closer your headquarters is to New York. More specifically, the more you suck up to Number One TurboTax Recession Warrior, the more power you will have over the taxpayers.