Barack Obama promised change. And New York’s elite Democratic policy experts and political donors, at least, are going to get it.
“I don’t think it’s going to be a heavy New York administration like the last time,” said one prominent New York donor, referring to the prospect of an Obama presidency. “It’s a new world.”
To an extent, the fortunes of New York’s would-be appointees to prestigious federal positions rose and, eventually, sunk with the candidacy of Hillary Clinton, with attention and influence shifting to power players in Washington, D.C., and Chicago.
But New York won’t be shut out entirely. Because of the city’s status (even if somewhat diminished) as the country’s financial capital, its hedge funds and banks will provide a number of names for top economic jobs in an Obama administration.
According to several Democratic insiders based in New York, Timothy Geithner, the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, comes up frequently in discussions of possible appointees.
Mr. Obama also receives the advice of former Treasury secretaries Robert Rubin and Lawrence Summers. To the extent that they want to go back into government, the door is presumably open to them.
(Mr. Summers has relayed advice to Mr. Obama directly or through the campaign’s economic adviser, Jason Furman, another New Yorker likely to get some sort of job offer from an Obama administration.)
The stock of Jamie Dimon, chairman and CEO of JPMorgan Chase & Co, who has successfully avoided the shoals of the financial crisis, has risen as well.
Another choice that some donors have discussed as a potential Treasury secretary is Governor Jon Corzine of New Jersey, who was the CEO of Goldman Sachs before Hank Paulson, the current Treasury secretary, staged a coup and replaced him. Since Mrs. Clinton dropped out of the race, Mr. Corzine has been especially enthusiastic and influential in bringing around New Jersey support.
Some less immediately recognizable New Yorkers are also in a position to be players in an Obama administration.
Chief among them is Michael Froman, a top executive at Citigroup, who served as Mr. Rubin’s chief of staff at Treasury, and who is playing a key role in the transition process. A Harvard classmate of Mr. Obama, he is extremely close to the candidate, and the feeling is that if he wants to play a significant role in government, he’ll have the opportunity to do so.
Other New Yorkers who are helping with transition and might play a role in the new administration are Jamie Rubin, the son of the former Treasury secretary, and an accomplished investor in his own right; Jeh Johnson, an attorney at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP and a former general counsel of the Department of the Air Force; Josh Steiner, the founder and managing principal of New York City-based private investment firm Quadrangle Group and a onetime chief of staff at Treasury; Josh Gotbaum, the former chief executive of the September 11 Fund who has worked for the Carter and Clinton administrations and Lazard Frères; Seth Harris, a faculty member of the New York Law School and a former counselor to the secretary of Labor in the Clinton administration; and Kevin Thurm, an executive at Citigroup, former Rhodes scholar and a former deputy secretary and chief operation officer of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Among the New York-area fund-raisers who bucked the Clinton trend and provided early support for Mr. Obama, several are likely to have a line into an Obama White House.
First among them is Orin Kramer, a financier at Boston Provident, a former aide in Jimmy Carter’s administration and a prodigious fund-raiser, who was perhaps the most influential bundler in Mr. Obama’s corner. Robert Wolf, an investment banker and CEO of UBS Americas, has expressed interest in a position, some insiders say. Also mentioned is Mark Gallogly, a private-equity expert who founded the firm Centerbridge after leaving Blackstone. Jim Torrey, a fund manager, has been especially enthusiastic and successful in raising money for Mr. Obama. Other founding members of the Obama fund-raising machine in New York include Provident Group managing director Brian Mathis and Frank Brosens, who runs Taconic Capital Advisors and is seen as very close to Bob Rubin.
Law is another major industry in New York, and insiders suggest that it will provide some candidates for jobs at the Department of Justice. Aside from the aforementioned Mr. Johnson, insiders have mentioned Preeta Bansal, a partner at Skadden, Arps and a former solicitor general of the State of New York who has worked on foreign policy, immigration and legal issues for the campaign. Before that, she worked on Supreme Court nominations in the Clinton White House, and like Obama, she is a graduate of Harvard Law. David Carden, an attorney at the law firm Jones Day, has roots in Illinois and has raised a lot of money for Mr. Obama. Andy Schapiro, a partner at Mayer Brown who attended Harvard with Mr. Obama and clerked for Judge Richard Posner of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit and for Justice Harry Blackmun on the Supreme Court, is also named as a potential candidate for a position.
The most prominent New York-based figure who could potentially figure in a significant role in the Obama foreign policy operation is Richard Holbrooke, the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. He is, as several Obama insiders pointed out, too important not to be considered. At the same time, though, he has a couple of political problems. One is that he was an enthusiastic supporter of Hillary Clinton. The other, potentially more serious, is that he has had a rocky personal history with Anthony Lake, one of Mr. Obama’s most senior foreign policy advisers.
There’s at least one famous New Yorker who is less likely to get a call from the Obama administration than was once supposed.
Despite the advice he has offered to the next president in Newsweek columns, Mayor Michael Bloomberg is no longer in consideration as a candidate for a top job. To the degree that he was discussed at all, Mr. Bloomberg’s name all but vanished from serious conversation when he pushed a bill to overturn a two-term limit on city elected officials through the New York City Council, according to a number of insiders interviewed for this article.
Though there’s much to be decided about which New Yorkers will eventually make the final cut, the decision-making portion of the transition process is certainly farther along than the resolutely tight-lipped Obama campaign has let on.
According to a senior Obama campaign official, a dozen groups completely separate from the campaign’s policy working groups have been operating under John Podesta, the former White House chief of staff under Bill Clinton, to come up with personnel in areas like the economy, health, climate change, foreign policy and national security. And according to another source with knowledge of the transition process, the campaign has already whittled those names down to “shortlists.”