Americans can sleep soundly knowing that Max Baucus (D., Mont.) isn’t in charge of interviewing captured al Qaeda fighters. But the enhanced non-interrogation techniques that the Senate Finance Chairman has been applying to Treasury Secretary nominee Jack Lew still deserve more attention. This weekend’s technique was painful to watch—if you’re a taxpayer.
After Mr. Lew repeatedly responded “I do not recall” to key questions about his actions while working at New York University and Citigroup, C -1.59%Mr. Baucus announced Sunday that Mr. Lew had answered the committee’s questions “in a thorough and fully transparent manner.” Therefore, the committee will vote Tuesday on the nomination.
This is a shame because Mr. Lew is well qualified to explain how the Washington-Wall Street axis of access really operates. And while Mr. Lew’s supporters talk about the quantity of paper traded between him and Senate Finance, there are at least two answers that ought to be demanded before Mr. Lew skates to the most powerful job in American finance. They relate to the paychecks he received from his last two employers before returning to government.
We wrote recently about the oddity of New York University paying severance to Mr. Lew in 2006 when he left there voluntarily to work at Citigroup. NYU hasn’t explained why it would pay someone for quitting to take a job on Wall Street.
As for the Citi paycheck, the story is how Wall Street has become a get-rich-turnstile for Democratic political operatives. The terms of Mr. Lew’s original employment contract with Citi included a bonus guarantee if he left the bank for a “high level position with the United States government or regulatory body.”