Ed Driscoll

Been There, Done That--Got The T-Shirt, And The Stimulus Money

I had some fun with Kevin D. Williamson’s “New York Times as the Velvet Underground” riff this morning, but he was spot-on earlier this year, when he wrote that Wall Street’s politics are now as blue as their Paul Stuart chalkstripe suits:

IN the sweating-bullets world of venture capital, start-ups live or die by The Pitch–the one-shot better-get-this-right opportunity an entrepreneur has to sell his idea to the people who have the money to make it happen. Barack Obama, the most successful start-up in modern American politics, made his pitch to 20-odd gorilla-league hedge-fund barons and Wall Street money managers early in the Democratic primary season. He wasn’t yet the front runner, and the room wasn’t necessarily ready to be impressed. New York money was already invested in the presidential aspirations of home-state senator Hillary Clinton, and Chuck Schumer, who had been merciless in his campaign to wring money out of Wall Street for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, was backing her. So were the CEOs of JPMorgan Chase, Goldman Sachs, and Morgan Stanley. Obama’s net assets: one famous speech.

Pitching Wall Street, Obama didn’t chew through his usual mouthful of Hope and Change. This was a room full of George Soros–level players, not the sort of people who get a buzz from inhaling the heady vapors of Obama’s pharmaceutical-grade oratory. Instead of his usual homily, Obama delivered what one insider describes as a “blistering attack” on the American public-school bureaucracy in general and on teachers’ unions in particular. Busting chops–that got Wall Street’s attention. He said he was close–“this close”–to supporting vouchers, an almost unthinkably heterodox position for a Democrat seeking the keys to the executive suite. But hedge-fund guys spend good coin sending their precious bundles to Choate and Greenwich Country Day School, and they like the idea of education reform. Obama must have been convincing: Nearly three-fourths of the hedge-fund and buyout-firm money that found its way into the two major 2008 presidential candidates’ campaigns went to Obama. He’d taken $2,000 from Tony Rezko and a loan from a Chicago Cadillac dealer and turned it into a $750 million political enterprise. Never mind Colin Powell, the Republicans had lost Gordon Gekko, and the Goldman Sachs Democrats were back in business.

Not that they’d ever gone away.

The Democrats–the party of George Soros and dodgy cattle futures–have long profited by denouncing Republicans as the party of Wall Street, a raggedy front for a gang of amoral money-runners pulling the strings of their puppets in Washington. It’s a useful narrative for Democrats, but it isn’t true. Wall Street may have a few more pachyderms roaming around than the rest of Manhattan, but the world of bulls and bears is also a world of donkeys.

That’s a trend that’s been building a long time, as I wrote in 2004. And as Bob Owens writes today at Pajamas, they’re certainly getting their money’s worth–err, actually, getting our money’s worth:

Individuals identifying themselves as working for the banks above gave Barack Obama’s presidential campaign $3,617,724. In other words, more than 3.6 million reasons for the president to help focus the media’s glare on the relatively minuscule $165 million in AIG executive bonuses, and away from their $43.5 billion portion of $100 billion of taxpayer dollars the administration, by design or incompetence, filtered to other banks through AIG.

In receiving $43.5 billion for their investment of just over $3.3 million, it looks like the banks that gambled on Wall Street certainly got their money’s worth out of their investment in Barack Obama.

And some financial executives are not afraid to wear their bleeding edge politics on their sleeve–or at least, on their T-shirt, as liberal blogger Josh Marshall writes:

I found out a little more about AIG Financial Products, my new obsession.

We’ve already told you about Joseph Cassano, former head of AIGFP, the guy who ran the operation as they were busy making tons of money blowing up AIG and the global economy.

Inter alia, the Times article reports the division is now run by Gerry Pasciucco, a former vice chairman of Morgan Stanley. On the left, you can see a recent photograph of Mr. Pasciucco from a party in Belle Haven, sporting a Che Guevara t-shirt, blue blazer and handkerchief, with some sort of sporting drink I’m unable to identify (possibly a mojito?).

And as Charles Johnson writes, Pasciucco was photographed wearing his Che T-shirt at a party where the theme was 1940s Cuba–the very era brought to its destruction by Che, who aided Castro in turning Cuba into a virtual prison for half a century and counting.

Last July (about a month after the photograph of Pasciucco was snapped) we quoted Ivan Osorio, who quipped:

My friend Tom Palmer says that whenever he sees somebody sporting a Che Guevara t-shirt, he likes to ask the wearer, “That’s a great t-shirt; do you have the entire collection?” The wearer usually responds either with a blank stare or by asking Tom what does he mean, to which Tom then responds: “You know, Stalin, Hitler, Mao, Pol Pot…”

Of course, from celebrities to campaign workers, the AIG executive was far from the only Obama supporter to get his Che on. Perhaps they should tune into Reason’s recent video on the topic of Killer Chic: