Sideways: Goldman Sachs and politics – DJ D-Sol may regret crossing AOC



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Goldman Sachs chief executive David Solomon contributed $5,600 to Michelle Caruso-Cabrera, a former CNBC journalist who challenged Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in the recent Democratic primary election for the 14th congressional district in New York, which covers parts of the Bronx and Queens.

In a heavily Democratic constituency, the party nominee is virtually guaranteed a victory in the upcoming November 2020 election.

To the surprise of few neutral observers, Ocasio-Cortez – or AOC as she is widely known – won the primary vote comfortably and will almost certainly return to congress next year as one of the leaders of the reformist wing of the Democratic party.

The decision by Solomon – who is known as DJ D-Sol to many of his employees – to publicly oppose Ocasio-Cortez is more of a mystery.

Caruso-Cabrera had plenty of other financial donations from Wall Street, but many of them were from contributors who are openly aligned with Republican causes.

Blackstone chief executive Stephen Schwarzman is a friend and adviser to president Donald Trump, for example, so his opposition to Ocasio-Cortez was understandable – especially as she is a vocal critic of business practices in the private equity industry.

On cue

Solomon may have been taking a cue from his predecessor as Goldman chief executive, Lloyd Blankfein, a frequent supporter of Democrats who has nevertheless been sparring on Twitter with Ocasio-Cortez’s political mentor Bernie Sanders for much of the last year.

But Blankfein is now retired from Goldman, or on a gap year, as his Twitter feed has it.

Solomon achieved nothing with his endorsement, while risking alienating some of his employees and clients – either corporate customers looking ahead to a possible Democratic administration in the US next year, or potential retail users of Goldman’s online banking brand Marcus.

Wall Street CEOs, from Goldman Sachs to Blackstone, poured in millions to defeat our grassroots campaign tonight. But their money couldn’t buy a movement 

 – Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

Ocasio-Cortez was able to deploy the opposition of financiers such as Solomon as a way to fire up her base.

“Wall Street CEOs, from Goldman Sachs to Blackstone, poured in millions to defeat our grassroots campaign tonight. But their money couldn’t buy a movement,” she tweeted on June 24 after her victory was confirmed.

Caruso-Cabrera conducted an energetic campaign, as might be expected from a candidate with media experience and backers with deep-pockets.

Liabilities

She had serious political liabilities, however, which also puts Solomon’s judgement into question. She wrote a book calling for less government involvement in the economy that had a foreword from Larry Kudlow, Trump’s current national economic adviser, for example.

It also emerged during the primary election campaign that Caruso-Cabrera previously lived in a Trump Tower apartment in Manhattan, and only moved to a Queens residence in the 14th New York congressional district at the end of last year, in an apparent prelude to announcing her candidacy.

These details were unlikely to endear her to Democratic primary voters.

Caruso-Cabrera’s backers tried to brand her as MCC – in an initial-based riposte to the high-profile nickname of Ocasio-Cortez – but in retrospect it is no surprise that she eventually secured less than 20% of the primary vote, compared to 72.6% for the victor.

Presumptive Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden is currently well ahead of Trump in polls indicating the key result of the coming elections.

That has revived speculation in the financial industry about who Biden might appoint as Treasury secretary in a new administration. Potential candidates include Larry Fink, chief executive of BlackRock, and Jamie Dimon, long-time head of JPMorgan.

It is far from obvious why Biden would pick a Wall Street veteran when he is likely to remain under pressure to endorse substantial reforms from fellow Democrats such as Ocasio-Cortez, Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.

But anyone looking for an accurate prognostication can at least make sure to avoid Goldman’s man with his headphones tuned to the political pulse: DJ D-Sol.



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