During Campaign, Obama Economic Advisers Were Paid Commentators

By Philip Rucker
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, April 5, 2009

Some of President Obama's top economic advisers were paid, in some cases handsomely, for their commentaries in 2008 about tax policy, government bailouts of financial institutions, global trade and the economic recession, according to financial disclosure forms made public by the White House late Friday.

Four White House economic aides, including National Economic Council Director Lawrence H. Summers, received thousands of dollars in payments for newspaper opinion columns or cable television appearances, the documents show.

The officials received income for their commentaries before joining Obama's administration in January. Yet at the same time that some were advising Obama's presidential campaign, they were being paid by news organizations, in some cases for commentating on President George W. Bush's economic policies or advocating for policies that Obama supported on the campaign trail.

Summers received $34,000 in fees from the Financial Times, for which he wrote at least eight columns in 2008. The newspaper paid him $60,000 for a speaking engagement, according to his disclosure. He also reported $52,807 in income from the Wylie Agency, a literary agency that lists the former Treasury secretary and Harvard University president as a client.

Summers did not join the Obama team in an official capacity until after the November election, but he was an influential adviser to the candidate during the campaign as the economic collapse moved to the forefront in Obama's race against Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.). Summers reportedly played a key role in internal campaign conference calls with Obama and other top aides by summarizing economic developments, and the campaign sometimes deployed him as a public surrogate.

A White House aide said payments to Summers -- including more than $2.7 million in speaking fees from dozens of corporations and other groups -- predated his work in Obama's administration or on his transition team.

Jared Bernstein, who was an economist at the Economic Policy Institute before joining the administration in January as Vice President Biden's chief economic policy adviser, earned $70,000 last year for more than 130 appearances on CNBC, the business news cable channel, according to his disclosure. Bernstein appeared on many shows, including "The Kudlow Report," "Squawk on the Street" and "Closing Bell," opining about developments in the economy and the campaign.

Austan Goolsbee, a University of Chicago economist who joined Obama's campaign and now is a member of the Council of Economic Advisers, was paid $2,000 by the New York Times for a column, according to his disclosure form.

Another campaign adviser, Jason Furman, who had directed the Hamilton Project at the Brookings Institution and now is deputy director of the National Economic Council, earned fees for three writing projects in 2008. He received $5,000 from Slate, owned by The Washington Post Co., for his work as a columnist; $400 from the Los Angeles Times for a column; and $2,500 from Stanford University for a writing fee, according to his financial disclosure form.

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