While Goldman Sachs' lawyers negotiated with the Securities and Exchange Commission over potentially explosive civil fraud charges, Goldman's chief executive visited the White House at least four times.
White House logs show that Chief Executive Lloyd Blankfein traveled to Washington for at least two events with President Barack Obama , whose 2008 presidential campaign received $994,795 in donations from Goldman's political action committee, its employees and their relatives. He also met twice with Obama's top economic adviser, Larry Summers .
No evidence has surfaced to suggest that Blankfein or any other Goldman executive raised the SEC case with the president or his aides. SEC Chairwoman Mary Schapiro said in a statement Wednesday that the SEC doesn't coordinate enforcement actions with the White House or other political bodies.
Meanwhile, however, Goldman is retaining former Obama White House counsel Gregory Craig as a member of its legal team. In addition, when he worked as an investment banker in Chicago a decade ago, White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel advised one client who also retained Goldman as an adviser on the same $8.2 billion deal.
Goldman's connections to the White House and the Obama administration are raising eyebrows at a time when Washington and Wall Street are dueling over how to overhaul regulation of the financial world.
Lawrence Jacobs , a University of Minnesota political scientist, said that "almost everything that the White House has done has been haunted by the personnel and the money of Goldman . . . as well as the suspicion that the White House , particularly early on, was pulling its punches out of deference to Goldman and its war chest.
"There's now kind of a magnifying glass on the administration for any sign of interference or conversations with the regulators and the judiciary," Jacobs said.
The SEC investigation of Goldman's dealings lasted 18 months and culminated with the SEC filing civil fraud charges against the investment bank last week.
According to White House visitor logs, Blankfein was among the business leaders who attended an Obama speech on Feb. 13, 2009 , and he also joined more than a dozen bank CEOs in a meeting with Obama on March 27, 2009 .
Blankfein also was supposed be among the CEOs who met with Obama in December, but he and two others phoned in from New York , blaming inclement weather.
He and his wife, Laura, were listed on the logs among 438 presidential guests at the Kennedy Center Honors the previous week.
The logs also indicate that Blankfein met twice in 2009, on Feb. 4 and Sept. 30 , with Summers, who was undersecretary of the Treasury Department during the Clinton administration when it was headed by Robert Rubin , a former Goldman CEO.
Asked whether Goldman executives had talked to administration officials about the SEC inquiry, Goldman spokesman Michael DuVally said that the firm doesn't discuss "what conversations we may or may not have had with government officials." (continues here)