Exit Steve Rattner

I know and like Steve Rattner, which doesn't make me especially unique. The New York financier is well known in Washington and New York, where he started the Quadrangle Group investment firm after years at Lazard Freres and other firms. His wife, Maureen White, was a finance director of the Democratic National Committee, and the two are well connected in politics in both cities. The Rattners are close to the Clintons, and Steve was an outspoken supporter of Chuck Schumer in his 1998 Senate bid and for New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg. For what it's worth, I hosted a panel with Katie Couric, Brian Williams and George Stephanopoulos at Quadrangle's annual Foursquare conference this past year and spoke on another occasion in front of his group.

Like a lot of people, I was surprised to hear yesterday that Rattner was giving up his role as Obama's chief auto adviser so quickly after the General Motors restructuring. The New York Times has an account. Mickey Kaus offers a number of theories over here at Slate.

One issue seems to be an investigation by New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo into the practices of investment firms, like Quadrangle, seeking new business especially managing pension funds. Some other investment firms like the private-equity giant, the Carlyle Group, have paid fines. The Times also quotes an adminstration official noting that Rattner's work was largely over.

I guess for me there are two interesting aspects of the story. The first is how thorny it's been for Treasury to bring in people to help fix the financial mess. They've had to grant waivers over various lobbying restrictions, and they've been at pains to find people with the expertise to fix the mess that we're in but who were not themselves part of the mess. That's a small applicant pool. Leaving aside the merits of the Cuomo investigation, it's likely to make that pool even smaller.

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Matthew Cooper is a managing editor (White House) for National Journal.

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