The White House opened the doors to Wall Street today with a visit from Lloyd Blankfein, the chief executive officer of Goldman Sachs Group Inc., who was in the capital to speak at the Economic Club of Washington.
Blankfein was to meet with Jack Lew, President Barack Obama’s chief of staff, according to an administration official. Obama isn’t scheduled to see the Goldman chief.
The president has had an icy relationship with Wall Street during his time in office as he’s pushed for greater regulation of the financial industry. He’s recently been criticized in the financial community for what some see as a vilification of the industry as he campaigns against Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, the co-founder of Boston-based private equity firm Bain Capital LLC.
Employees of Goldman Sachs are the biggest single source of donations directly to the Romney presidential campaign and are the top givers to the joint fundraising committee he has set up with the Republican Party.
Blankfein, 57, hasn’t donated to either Romney or Obama, according to data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics in Washington.
The last time Blankfein visited the White House was on Oct. 12 for a meeting with Valerie Jarrett, a senior adviser to Obama who is also an administration liaison to the business community. Before today, visitor logs show he had been to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. 15 times, six of those times to meet with the president.
During the lunch at the Economic Club, Blankfein was interviewed by Carlyle Group LP’s co-CEO David Rubenstein, who asked him whether he had any aspiration to go into government like many of his predecessors. Former Goldman executives Hank Paulson and Robert Rubin both served as Treasury secretaries.
“I have aspirations to be desired,” Blankfein quipped.