Robert Novak

That includes Bob Steel, under secretary for domestic finance. Last Wednesday, Steel participated in a round-table discussion on "recent financial market disruptions" at the liberal Brookings Institution. Former Secretary Robert Rubin headed the panel that included two of his Clinton administration associates: his successor as secretary, Lawrence Summers, and former Deputy Secretary Roger Altman.

Steel surely did not feel out of place as a Republican stranger in the Democratic paradise at Brookings, for he is no Republican. Brought to the Treasury by Paulson a year ago, Steel is a retired Goldman Sachs vice chairman who worked there with Rubin and Paulson. Federal Election Commission records show no political contributions by Steel since the 2002 cycle, when he gave exclusively to Democrats (including Sen. Charles Schumer of New York). Steel, who is Board of Trustees chairman of Duke University in Durham, N.C., contributed to the North Carolina Democratic Party and its Senate candidates, Dan Blue and Erskine Bowles.

Although Paulson was a generous Republican contributor and prodigious Bush fundraiser (over $100,000) in the 2004 cycle, his earlier political giving was more varied. He contributed to Bill Clinton in 1992, Democrat Bill Bradley's 2000 presidential campaign, the feminist Emily's List and Wall Street's favorite Democrat, Chuck Schumer. Most of the Paulson family's Democratic contributions come from the secretary's wife, Wendy, who has supported Hillary Clinton.

All this was known to Bush in May 2006 when he tapped Paulson as a Treasury chief who would command respect on Wall Street. It should be no surprise then that he is regarded in his own administration as less a true Republican secretary than a transition to the next Democratic Treasury -- a trademark of a lame-duck regime.

Robert Novak

Robert Novak (1931-2009) was a syndicated columnist and editor of the Evans-Novak Political Report.

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