Opposition to investment banker Antonio Weiss' nomination to a senior Treasury Department post mounted on Thursday, while Weiss found a sympathetic voice from a source who likely won't be much help as he faces scrutiny for his Wall Street background: Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein.
Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin became the latest senator to speak out against Weiss' nomination today, citing concerns that the banker wouldn't advocate robust oversight of Wall Street if he were confirmed as undersecretary of the Treasury for domestic finance.
"Based on his record and qualifications as a Wall Street investment banker I don’t have confidence that he will work to even the playing field for middle class families and small businesses who need a fair shot to get ahead. With Wall Street lobbyists and Republicans working harder than ever to gut the Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform law, working families need public servants who are committed to remembering the hard lessons of the financial crisis," Baldwin said in a statement.
"In addition, Wisconsin’s small businesses and homebuyers – as well as the community banks and credit unions that serve them – need a stronger voice in financial policymaking to provide services that work for Main Street, not Wall Street," Baldwin added.
Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a leader of the Democratic Party's progressive wing, became the first senator to publicly oppose Weiss last month. Noting that Weiss is head of global investment banking for Lazard, Warren contends that his professional background ill suits him for a domestic finance post. Warren also points to Weiss' advisory role in Burger King's merger with Tim Hortons, a tax inversion deal that will allow the fast food giant to lower its tax bill. More generally, Warren believes that "the over-representation of Wall Street banks in senior government positions sends a bad message," as she wrote in the Huffington Post.
A diverse crop of senators has joined Warren in opposing the nomination. Liberal Sens. Bernie Sanders, a Vermont independent, and Richard Durbin, an Illinois Democrat, were among the earliest senators to back Warren's campaign against Weiss. But it wasn't until this week that it looked like Weiss' nomination could be in real trouble; Sen. Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, a centrist Democrat, and Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, one of the most conservative Democrats in the Senate, announced their opposition yesterday, indicating that the anti-Weiss vote will be far from monolithically liberal.
Progressive Democratic Sen. Al Franken of Minnesota also came out against Weiss yesterday, and Baldwin's announcement today is but the latest headache for the Obama administration as it looks toward a confirmation vote.
But Weiss supporters are speaking out, even if they aren't the supporters he needs to allay fears that he'd be too cozy with Wall Street. Speaking today at the New York Times DealBook conference in New York, Blankfein decried the backlash against the $21 million golden parachute Lazard will provide Weiss if he's confirmed.
“Why does the country benefit from making something hard so much harder?” Blankfein asked, echoing Weiss supporters like Times columnist Andrew Ross Sorkin, who lamented last month that the drive against Weiss will make government service less attractive for Wall Streeters and others in the private sector.
But concerns about the revolving door are at the heart of the campaign against Weiss -- and it's starting to appear that those concerns may actually jeopardize his nomination.