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Congress Can’t Get Hold of Treasury Either (Update: New EESA Website – No FSOB Meetings Since Inauguration)

John on March 31, 2009 at 7:23 pm

A few weeks ago there was a story in the British press that UK government officials were unable to get anyone at Treasury to answer their calls.

Today, Ed notes that Elizabeth Warren, Congress’ own bailout czarina, can’t get through to Secretary Geithner either:

Warren, testifying before the Senate Finance Committee Tuesday morning, said keeping Congress in the loop isn’t a “priority” of Secretary Tim Geithner — and suggested a possible “next step” would be to pass legislation that would “require [Treasury] to consult” with her.

[...]She added that Treasury has given her “no articulation of what [the bailout] is supposed to accomplish” and lamented the fact that “we have no way to measure” its success.

“Congress and the American people have been cut out of the conversation,” she said.

Ed goes on to note that there was no mention of the Financial Stability Oversight Board which, despite the clear wording of the EESA law requiring a monthly meeting, has not met since January 15th.

I’d just like to add my own second to Ms. Warren’s statement about the American people being cut out of the conversation. We actually reported this FSOB story first, right here at VS. Morgen found it and I published it on March 19th. Since then I have made four calls to Treasury’s press office, two to the SEC press office, and one to HUD’s press office. In addition, I’ve sent no fewer than six e-mails to Isaac Baker at Treasury, all of them asking for some comment on the apparent failure of the FSOB to meet.

I did get a brief response from the SEC which I published March 23rd. In addition, I received this response from Treasury’s press spokesman Isaac Baker on March 24th:

What is your phone number, I can explain to you.

I sent my number more than a week ago. Still nothing.

Granted, I’m just a blogger and Treasury has a lot going on, but it does seem to complete the pattern. Treasury isn’t responsive to foreign governments, Congress, or concerned citizens. At this point I think it’s fair to say we have a problem.

Update: There is a brand new TARP website which was launched just yesterday. As you can see by following this link, the oversight page says:

The Oversight Board meets monthly to consider, review and discuss the significant programs, policies and financial commitments of the TARP to help restore financial stability and achieve the other important objectives of the EESA…To promote transparency, the Oversight Board makes minutes of its meetings publicly available.

Right below that is a list of meeting minutes up through January 15th. No meetings since the inauguration.

Update 2: Well, this makes me feel a little better:

The Treasury public-affairs office hasn’t provided a detailed breakdown of TARP commitments, despite four requests by Dow Jones reporters this week. A Treasury spokesman, however, did note that a key spending threshold hadn’t been reached. Asked to comment for this story on transparency, officials also didn’t return an email request for comment.

So I guess Dow Jones reporters can’t get a response either.

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