Greed is good -- until it gets in the way of a union-friendly restructuring deal. President Obama, generous recipient of Wall Street largesse, angrily derided a group of hedge fund managers this week as "speculators." The miffed president suggested that uncooperative firms were selfish for holding out on the government's Chrysler bankruptcy plans and refusing to make "sacrifices" to benefit the United Auto Workers.
The "sacrifices" involved Chrysler debt holders agreeing to sell the debt to the government at prices determined by union-beholden bureaucrats instead of bankruptcy courts. The hedge firms balked. Obama sneered that the dissenters were looking for an "unjustified taxpayer-funded bailout." But the holdouts never took banking bailout funds from Washington. And the targeted financial executives were simply doing what good money managers are supposed to do: put their clients' fiduciary interests first.
Obama's corporate-bashing rhetoric should, of course, come as no shock. During the campaign and continuing through his first 100 days, he has routinely attacked the "ethic of greed." When Sen. John McCain publicized Obama's wealth redistribution comments to Joe the Plumber, Obama snarked that McCain was "fighting for Joe the Hedge Fund Manager" and was "in cahoots with Joe the CEO." First lady Michelle Obama also singled out hedge fund managers for scorn, urging young people to turn away from unrewarding work on Wall Street for more fulfilling jobs in the "helping industry."
But behind the public lashings, the Obamas were all too happy to pass the plate around the pews of the Church of "Greed." According to the Center for Responsive Politics, hedge funds and private equity firms donated $2,992,456 to the Obama campaign in the 2008 cycle. Obama, vocal critic of the campaign finance practice known as "bundling," accepted more than $200,000 in bundled contributions from billionaire hedge-fund manager James Torrey, more than $100,000 in bundled contributions from billionaire hedge-fund manager Paul Tudor Jones and more than $50,000 in bundled contributions from billionaire hedge-fund manager Kenneth C. Griffin, chief executive officer of Citadel Investment Group in Chicago.
No less than 100 Obama bundlers are investment CEOs and brokers; nearly two dozen work for financial giants such as Lehman Brothers, Goldman Sachs or Citigroup. By comparison, Evil Republican Rich Guy McCain received $1,699,525 from the industry.