Newly installed Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner issued new rules Tuesday restricting contacts with lobbyists – and then hired one to be his top aide. Mark Patterson, a former advocate for Goldman Sachs, will serve as chief of staff to Geithner as the Treasury Department revamps the Wall Street bailout program that sent an infusion of cash to his former employer.
Patterson’s appointment marks the second time in President Barack Obama’s first week in office that the administration has had to explain how it’s complying with its own ethics rules as it hires a bevy of Washington insiders for administration jobs . . .
“This is exactly the kind of thing that makes the American public suspicious of politicians. You say one thing and do another,” said Melanie Sloan, founder of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.
Treasury spokeswoman Stephanie Cutter lauded Patterson’s “long history of public service in the U.S. Senate, both as a staff director of the Senate Finance Committee and policy director for the Senate leader.
“He brings significant expertise to the job of chief of staff and has agreed to a far-reaching ethics pledge to remove any hint of a conflict of interest,” she added. According to that pledge, Patterson will be prohibited for the next two years from participating in Treasury decisions related to Goldman Sachs and the specific issues on which he lobbied.
Still, Sloan and financial service lobbyists question how Treasury will make those determinations. “Goldman so permeates the markets, how can you separate them out?” Sloan asked.
Change you can believe in, right?