Today’s Qs for O’s WH – 2/4/09

Feb 4, 2009 4:03pm

TAPPER: Robert, two questions, one on the stimulus and one on executive compensation rules. On stimulus, Democratic Congressman Jim Cooper said that the White House wants to keep the Speaker happy and the traditional Democratic leaders, but they’ve let them know privately that they’re not interested in all the pork. Have you guys led –

GIBBS: I’m sorry, repeat that question one more time.

TAPPER: The whole thing?

GIBBS: Yeah.

TAPPER: Okay. Congressman — Democratic Congressman Jim Cooper of Tennessee –

MR. GIBBS: Right.

TAPPER: — recently said that the White House wants to keep the Speaker happy and the traditional Democratic leaders, but they’ve let them know the privately — the White House has let the Democrats in the House know privately they’re not interested in all the pork. Has the White House conveyed to the Democratic leaders in Congress that you’re not interested in all the pork? And then I have a follow- up.

GIBBS: Well, I think the president continues to meet with members of both parties to try to get the very strongest bill possible. I think he said yesterday in these interviews that no doubt that this legislation will undergo changes in order to get the strongest bill possible. I’m not going to get into private conversations — every private conversation the president has, but suffice to say he wants a bill that will get the economy moving again and get the strongest bill possible.

TAPPER: Okay. And about the executive compensation rules. The Merrill Lynch bonuses, the CitiGroup jet, the Wells Fargo retreat, these rules would not prevent any of those from happening.

GIBBS: I think that — and I will get ultimate clarification on this from Treasury officials, but there are provisions in the rules that ensure that some of the items that you mentioned are disclosed or are transparent. And I think in each one of the instances — you mentioned jets, you mentioned the —

TAPPER: The retreat — the Wells Fargo retreat, the Merrill Lynch bonuses.

GIBBS: Right.

TAPPER: The point is, you’re saying that the transparency will –

GIBBS: Well, I think — I have to check on the Merrill Lynch bonuses, but CitiGroup’s jet, for a planned jet purchase, and the Wells Fargo retreat at the Wynn, both didn’t happen because of the diligent work of many in the reporting of these and the outcry that ensued. You don’t have to have a rule or a regulation to ensure that the American people know what to get mad at. You don’t need a regulation to have that transparency and accountability put pressure on the actions of companies and executives that change their actions. That’s why the president put forward and talked about today a provision that gives shareholders an active voice in the pay and the compensation structure of the companies with which they hold stock. You know, 24 hours ago, we were talking about this retreat at the Wynn for Wells Fargo. The reason we’re not actively talking about that today is because that outcry, without a regulation, killed the retreat, that by doing — by having that accountability and that transparency, by putting those expenditures up on a website, for the news media and for the American public to see, I think, will have a great impact on the behavior of many in business.

– jpt

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