Wall Street’s largest trade group has started a campaign to counter the “populist” backlash against bankers, enlisting two former aides to Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson to spearhead the effort.
In memos of confidential meetings with top financial executives, the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association said it began this month the “execution phase” of the operation, which pledges to “embrace change” and accountability. The plan targets policy makers and the media in New York, London, Washington and Brussels and calls for a “city-by-city, grass roots” approach.
The board meeting minutes and staff-written papers, obtained by Bloomberg News, outline the program crafted by polling, lobbying and public relations companies paid at least $85,000 a month. The memos provide a glimpse, in often candid language, into how Wall Street is grappling with its pariah status.
“It is imperative that in this historic period of reform, the industry be recognized as playing a positive role in seeking change and providing solutions to the problems we face,” one of the documents said. “There is currently widespread skepticism about the industry’s commitment to this needed change.”
The internal papers call for using regional securities firms, many of which have escaped notoriety in the financial crisis, to push the industry’s message with their local members of Congress. The plan notes that brokers across the country can also be used.[...]
To advise on the strategy, the trade group turned to a bipartisan roster of consultants. Such advice doesn’t come cheap and SIFMA is discussing dipping into its reserves to cover some of the costs, according to one memo.
Michele Davis, Paulson’s former spokeswoman, and Jim Wilkinson, his former chief of staff, are among those leading the effort. SIFMA is paying their firm, Brunswick Group LLC, a monthly retainer of $70,000, the documents show. Both Davis and Wilkinson declined to comment. Paulson left office in January.
They're getting the band back together again.
I have written many, many times about Jim Wilkinson over the years starting within the first months of this blog with this one:
Via Atrios this may be the best article yet about the surreality of Operation Big Swinging Manhood.
Even Kubrick and Southern couldn’t have made this stuff up:Clearly marked as the rabble-rouser of the get-out-of-Doha movement, I was approached by some enforcer types. The first person was a version of a Graham Greene character. He represented the White House, he said. Wasn't of the military. Although, he said, he was embedded here ("sleeping with a lot of flatulent officers," he said). He was incredibly conspiratorial. Smooth but creepy: "If you had to write the memo about media relations, what would be your bullet points?"It's pretty clear who that civilian in uniform is and he's a real piece 'o work:
The next person to buttonhole me was the Centcom uber-civilian, a thirty-ish Republican operative. He was more full-metal-jacket in his approach (although he was a civilian he was, inexplicably, in uniform - making him, I suppose a sort of para-military figure): "I have a brother who is in a Hummer at the front, so don't talk to me about too much fucking air-conditioning." And: "A lot of people don't like you." And then: "Don't fuck with things you don't understand." And too: "This is fucking war, asshole." And finally: "No more questions for you."
I had been warned. (Read the whole thing)Signaling the high interest in improving the military's image is the appointment of [Jim] Wilkinson as spokesman for CENTCOM. A veteran White House publicist as well as a Navy Reserve lieutenant, Wilkinson headed the anti-Taliban Coalition Information Center during the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan and was spokesman for the Bush campaign in Miami-Dade County during the Florida recount after the 2000 election.Wilkinson's political credentials have aroused journalistic concerns that the Bush administration, not known for its openness, is trying to control the message and use it for re-election purposes in the 2004 campaign.
Buzzflash reported:...this entire public affairs operation is headed Jim Wilkinson, one of the thugs who protested the Florida recount. Ever the good soldier, (though a civilian, Wilkinson reportedly wears a military desert camouflage uniform to work)...
"We’re getting the band together," White House Communications Director Dan Bartlett told the group on their first conference call last week.
The "Band" is made up of the people who brought you the war in Afghanistan—or at least the accompanying public-relations campaign. Their greatest hit: exposing the Taliban’s treatment of women.
Now, they’re back for a reunion tour on Iraq. The Band's instrument, of course, is information.
They aim to use it against Saddam Hussein, respond to his disinformation and control the message within the administration so no one—not even Vice President Dick Cheney—freelances on Iraq.
That’s no easy task. The members talk every day by phone at 9:30 a.m.
The key players are a handful of rising stars in their early 40s and under:
For starters there’s Deputy Communications Director Jim Wilkinson, 32, a fast-talking Texan who has become an unlikely but keen student of Islam. He recently got back from a trip to Morocco where he continued his study of Arabic (which he can now read and write pretty well).
It was Wilkinson who spearheaded the successful Afghan women’s campaign last year. A Naval Reserve officer, Wilkinson got his start working with Bush ally Texas Rep. Dick Armey. He’s the go-to guy when the White House needs information against its enemies.
In the last few weeks, he and his underlings have weeded through hundreds of pages of news clippings, U.N. resolutions and State Department reports to compile an arsenal of documents against Saddam Hussein. They released the first round last week: "Decade of Defiance and Deception" (a broken-U.N.-resolutions hit parade).
"Wilkinson first left his mark on the 2000 Presidential race in March 1999, when he helped package and promote the notion that Al Gore claimed to have 'invented the Internet.' Then the Texan popped up in Miami to defend Republican protesters shutting down a recount: 'We find it interesting that when Jesse Jackson has thousands of protesters in the streets, it's O.K., but when a small number of Republicans exercise their First Amendment rights, the Democrats don't seem to like it,' he told the Associated Press.
"For his troubles, Mr. Wilkinson was made deputy director of communications for planning in the Bush White House, and was among the aides who set up the Sept. 14, 2001, visit to Ground Zero that redefined George W. Bush's Presidency. During the Afghan war, he managed 'Coalition Information Centers' in Washington, D.C., and London, as well as in Pakistan and Afghanistan. In Qatar, he became the point man on the rescue of Pvt. Jessica Lynch and delivered the most memorable and sellable quote of Gulf War II: 'America doesn't leave its heroes behind,' he told reporters at a late-night briefing."
White House officials strongly dispute Clarke's conclusion, saying it reflects an old-fashioned approach to dealing with terrorism. "Those who question Iraq have an outdated and one-dimensional view of what is really a multi-dimensional threat to our nation," said Jim Wilkinson deputy national security adviser for communications. "Some think the solution is to kill Osama bin Laden, finish Afghanistan and then go back to a defensive posture and hope we're not attacked again. This approach represents the old way of thinking because it ignores the fact that the modern terrorist threat is a global threat."