This is more embarassing than damaging, but it turns out that Richard Holbrooke, the Obama administration’s special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan and co-chair of its Af-Pak strategy review, was on the board of AIG from 2001 to 2008. Here’s the what-did-the-administration-know-and-when-did-it-know-it:
Obama named Holbrooke as a special envoy on Jan. 22, two days after taking office. [Spokesman Tommy] Vietor said administration officials were aware of Holbrooke’s work for AIG during background checks this year — when AIG already had benefited from federal intervention.
"Disclosure of past board membership is part of the vetting process," Vietor said.
Apparently it’s unclear whether AIG’s decision to award the $165 million in bonuses to its executives ever came before the board Holbrooke sat upon. Vietor told the AP that Holbrooke "had nothing to do with and knew nothing about the bonuses." And needless to say AIG has nothing to with Afghanistan or Pakistan. Still, Matthew Yglesias observes:
[It] points toward the rotten nature of corporate governance in America, as well as the incestuous relationships between our overlapping elites in big-time politics and big-time finance. One assumes Holbrooke had nothing to do with any substantive aspect of AIG’s business—he was just there so AIG could fill the board seat with someone important and unlikely to make any trouble for whatever anyone at the firm was doing.
Something for everyone, in other words. AIG gets to claim a big, important geopolitical player and dyed-in-the-wool establishmentarian whom even a Republican administration won’t want to antagonize. Holbrooke gets a lot of money — something like $800,000, according to the AP. I’ll not say anything more, because this isn’t an issue I know about, but nothing in Holbrooke’s history suggests he’d back off his envoyship.
Update: Ben Smith notes that Holbrooke has hit the banking trifecta:
A colleague points out that Holbrooke also received a "friends of Angelo" mortgage and was a managing director at Lehman, which is quite a trinity.
Crossposted to The Streak.