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Pursuits

Neil Barofsky, the Democrat Taking Digs at Obama

Former Treasury official Neil Barofsky slams the administration
From left, Neil Barofsky, Elizabeth Warren, and Phil Angelides
From left, Neil Barofsky, Elizabeth Warren, and Phil AngelidesPhotographs by Brendan Hoffman/Bloomberg; Joshua Roberts/Bloomberg; Michael Nagle/Bloomberg

When Neil Barofsky left Washington in March 2011, many in the Obama White House were privately relieved. As special inspector general overseeing the government’s $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program, Barofsky was a relentless critic of the Wall Street bailout who accused the administration of coddling banks at the expense of taxpayers. In a 2009 report to Congress, he wrote that the administration’s lack of transparency in spending TARP funds had created “anger, cynicism and distrust.” In his final report, the month before he turned in his resignation, he wrote: “The prospect of more bailouts will continue to fuel more bad behavior with potentially disastrous results.”

These days Obama’s campaign advisers may wish Barofsky had stayed in town. Now a New York University law professor and free from whatever restrictions he might have felt as a government official, he’s become an even harsher scold of the president. On TV, in public debates, and on Twitter, he excoriates the administration—especially Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner—for failing to rein in the banks and revive the housing market. While Mitt Romney and the Republicans attack Obama from the right, saying he should get off the backs of business and the banks, Barofsky, a Democrat, leads the attack on the administration from the left, urging even more bank regulation.