By Annie Linskey and Greg Giroux
April 22 (Bloomberg) -- U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren accuses former Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson of lying to the American people and recounts Larry Summers urging her to be an insider in her new book, “A Fighting Chance.”
Paulson, she says in the book released today, sold the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program to the public as a “near par” transaction in which taxpayers would receive assets that were roughly equal to their investment. Though, she writes, in her capacity as a member of a congressional oversight panel for the program, she commissioned a report that found the Treasury was receiving 66 cents on the dollar.
“Their conclusions sent a chill through me,” Warren writes. “Treasury had overpaid -- and not just by a little. Treasury was subsidizing these banks pure and simple.”
Warren’s latest book -- her 10th -- is framed around six “fights” that tell the story of growing up in a working-class family in Oklahoma, the birth of her two children, a divorce, another marriage and her eventual rise to become a Harvard Law School professor, a critic of Wall Street and then a U.S. senator from Massachusetts who is one of her party’s most prodigious fundraisers.
The book is sparking a new round of speculation that Warren is positioning herself to run for the Democratic nomination for president in 2016. She has repeatedly denied any interest in a presidential campaign and has signed a letter urging former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to run. Warren said twice during an interview broadcast by ABC News yesterday: “I’m not running for president.”
Jahan Wilcox, a spokesman for the Republican National Committee, sent out a statement today accusing Warren of “toying” with the Democratic base which is -- so far -- supporting Clinton.
“We’ll see what happens when the calls get louder after liberal activists realize President Obama’s former secretary of state is more of a blast from the past than the wave of the future,” Wilcox said.
In the 384-page book, Warren paints herself as a sometimes flighty though dogged Washington outsider. She gets lost in the U.S. Capitol. She spilled the contents of her overstuffed bag while taking a call from then-presidential candidate John Edwards. She vomited prior to her first appearance on Jon Stewart’s “The Daily Show.”
She recounts a dinner with former Treasury Secretary Summers at the Bombay Club, a Washington restaurant she describes as a “quiet and softly lit” eatery that “served Washington’s power elite.”
Summers, then director of the National Economic Council, explained the choice she faced. “I could be an insider or I could be an outsider,” she writes of his words for her in that conversation: “Outsiders can say whatever they want. But people on the inside don’t listen to them. Insiders, however, get lots of access and a chance to push their ideas. People -- powerful people -- listen to what they have to say. But insiders also understand one unbreakable rule: They don’t criticize other insiders.”
“I had been warned,” Warren writes.
The book shows that Warren has taken some of Summer’s advice to heart -- in this volume she goes easy on Hillary Clinton, a presumptive front-runner for the 2016 Democratic nomination for president who Warren previously called out for flip-flopping on a industry-backed bankruptcy bill.
In the book, Warren praises Clinton for her role as first lady in pushing the president to veto a bill that would have made it harder for families to seek bankruptcy protection -- and says nothing more of Hillary Clinton’s record on the issue.
In an earlier book, “The Two Income Trap,” published in 2003 when she was a Harvard law professor, Warren told a longer version of the story. She then took Hillary Clinton to task for later changing her mind and supporting the legislation when it came back and Clinton served in the Senate.
“Big banks were now part of Senator Clinton’s constituency,” Warren wrote in 2003. “She wanted their support, and they wanted hers -- including a vote in favor of ’that awful bill.’”
The new book includes tidbits about Warren’s interactions with the bankers who she has built a career criticizing.
In an anecdote, Warren recalls meeting JPMorgan Chase & Co. CEO Jamie Dimon for the first time less than two weeks after she become an adviser to Obama and the Treasury Department in 2010. She writes that she spoke at a dinner of the Financial Services Roundtable and was seated next to Dimon.
“Dimon is a sturdy man, solidly built and supremely self-confident,” she writes. Though she had never met him in person, she had criticized him by name in a February 2010 Wall Street Journal opinion piece about his comment that a financial crisis occurs every five to seven years.
“I wondered if Dimon would argue with me over the salad course, but he didn’t,” she writes. “In fact, there were no arguments of any sort. Dimon did most of the talking, complaining loudly about how painful it was for him to be a Democrat when the Democrats were trying to regulate the banks.”
Warren writes that as she weighed running for the Senate in 2012, she met with Senator Patty Murray, a Washington state Democrat, and began listing reasons she might not be good enough for the job.
“After a few minutes, Patty cut me off: ‘Oh, please.’ Then she told me that women always think of reasons they aren’t good enough. Men never ask if they’re good enough to hold public office, Patty said: They just ask if they can raise enough money to win.”
Warren is now one of 20 women in the U.S. Senate, 16 of them Democrats.