Washington Prowler

Visitors From Chicago

Banking buds come calling on the President and Regulator in Chief.

By 3.15.10

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The White House must have had a Chicago vibe this past week, with several of President Barack Obama's most influential financial and political backers visiting. First, there was U.S. Senate candidate and Obama protégé Alexi Giannoulias, he of the Broadway Bank Giannoulias family. That bank, which lost $75 million, and which is rumored to be on a list of seven Illinois banks to be auctioned off by the FDIC, has been a pivotal institution for Obama over the years. His good friend, real estate buddy and convicted felon Tony Rezko, kept accounts there and bounced plenty of gambling debt checks off them. Obama's campaign kept accounts there, and Giannoulias himself ran its loan department, leaving the bank in dire financial straits before he was elected state treasurer. 

Giannoulias was at the White House for a Greek heritage event, but sources say he took time to meet privately with both Obama and political adviser David Axelrod. Obama's private meeting with Giannoulias was said to have been removed from the President's published schedule, though it did appear on several internal documents.

Then longtime Obama fundraiser Penny Pritzker came by for a lunch. White House officials identified her as the chairman of TransUnion, the Pritzker family's privately held credit reporting company, and as a member of Obama's Economic Recovery Advisory Board. But they could just as well have mentioned that she was also a part owner of the Hinsdale, Ill., Superior Bank, which failed in 2001 due to its large investment in sub-prime mortgages and automobile loans.

Pritzker attended the lunch along with the CEOs of McDonald's, Motorola, and United Airlines. The CEO lunches are a semi-regular affair, with the White House inviting different CEOs in for a private lunch every couple of months. A number of CEOs who have participated have come out grumbling about the affairs, saying that there is a lot of talk from the President about himself and the job he's doing and less on what the CEOs are seeing in the real world when it comes to the economy, job growth, and the way Washington is working.

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