AN EARLY AND EXCLUSIVE PRIMARY

The top presidential candidates of both political parties are meeting with voters in a key primary, promising to help them on the issues they care about.

The top presidential candidates of both political parties are meeting with voters in a key primary, promising to help them on the issues they care about.

Are they in Iowa? No. New Hampshire? Uh-uh. California? Nowhere near it. So, where?

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Wall Street.

While regular citizens won’t start voting on the presidential contenders until January, an intensive, closed-door primary has already been taking place inside the confines of investment banks, hedge funds, and other financial institutions in Manhattan. Reporters are not allowed in, candidates don’t issue press releases about their appearances, and there is no disclosure about what the presidential wannabes pledge to these elite banking interests in order to gain their financial backing. It’s strictly a private campaign – albeit with enormous public impact.

Bear Stearns, for example, has had its own presidential tour, summoning seven major candidates to its Midtown headquarters for exclusive presentations and Q&A sessions with its managing partners. If you’re just a plain ol’ voter, you’d be lucky to get a handshake with any of these aspirants, but this financial conglomerate can command its own little tête-à-tête with Romney, Clinton, Giuliani, Obama, Thompson, and others.

Business Week magazine reports that these Wall Street barons not only want to get commitments on issues like global trade and tax cuts, but they also use the private sessions to measure the candidates’ ability to “make smart decisions in times of uncertainty, a trait bankers and traders prize in themselves.”

Wait a minute! Aren’t these the same people who brought us Enron, NAFTA, offshoring, exorbitant credit card fees, dependency on oil, pension collapses, and other “smart decisions?” Indeed, isn’t Bear Stearns itself butt deep in the ongoing subprime mortgage disaster? Why should anyone listen to them?

“The Candidates On Wall Street,” www.businessweek.com, April 2, 2007

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