President Barack Obama was at my alma mater yesterday and used his first public statements to decry how “special interests dominate the debates in Washington.” Then will now be setting off for his first speech . . . to Wall Street special interests at Cantor Fitzgerald, which will pay him $400,000. This is the same politician who called such banks “fat cats” who exercise undue influence over our leaders.
Cantor Fitzgerald, a bank, has been touting how it is making a killing on health care investments. Now, the man who created the health care program will be receiving almost half a million dollars for a single brief speech. It raises visions of Hillary Clinton who cashed in on Wall Street speeches while denouncing the influence of Wall Street (and later refused to disclose the content of those speeches to the public).
One distinction is that Hillary pulled in only half of what Obama is demanding from Wall Street and powerful interests.
Of course, Obama was criticized for the level of influence of both Wall Street investors and powerful lobbies like the pharmaceutical industry on his policies. He was accused of packing his administration with lobbyists and breaking his promises on limiting the power of lobbies.
What is hilarious about our current system is that we have all of these bribery and influence peddling laws in place. However, if Wall Street or lobbyists give a former president half a million dollars for less than one hour of speaking soon after leaving office, it is entirely acceptable from a legal standpoint. So long as there is no quid pro quo, there is nothing legally wrong with absurd amounts of money going to a president as soon as he leaves office. At this rate, just 100 hours of work will put Obama near the $100 million goal surpassed by the Clintons, who virtually walked around with credit card swipers on their belt to facilitate payments from special interests.
In his speech, Obama encouraged people to work on the community level to influence change. He appears to be starting with the small Wall Street community of influence peddlers in his own quest for social justice.