Rep. Grayson: Geithner Blocking Fed Audit Out of ‘Conflict of Interest’

By Jonathan Blakely

May 5, 2010 1:35pm

ABC News’ Rick Klein reports: With a fight looming on the Senate floor over a proposal to open the Federal Reserve up to audits, a Democratic House member who’s leading that push said today that the Obama administration is seeking to block it out of “one of the biggest conflicts of interest I’ve ever seen.” Rep. Alan Grayson, D-Fla., said on ABC’s “Top Line” today that Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner is intervening to block the proposal to shield from scrutiny actions he took as president of the New York Fed, a post he assumed in 2003. “When Tim Geithner says that he doesn't want to see the Fed audited, what he's really saying is he doesn't want to see Tim Geithner audited,” Grayson said. “He was the head of the New York Fed for years and years. This audit would apply to him. And the actions he took — which he can now take in secret and, when this bill passes, will no longer be secret — we'll be able to see and understand the decisions that he made that among other things put huge amounts of bailout money into the hands of private interests.” Grayson added: “It's one of the biggest conflicts of interest I've ever seen.”
Grayson, a member of the House Financial Services Committee, said opening the Fed up for audits — as the House bill, in an amendment he co-authored with Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, would provide for — is a critical piece of financial regulatory reform. “The Fed doesn't want to be audited. Who does? Do you want to be audited? I don't want to be audited, but sometimes it's necessary,” he said. “When you're handing out a trillion dollars at a time — a trillion dollars at a time, which works out to $3,000 for every man woman and child in this country — don't we have a right to know what happened to it?” Grayson added: “It's central to the bill. We've had secret bailouts from the Fed to private interests now for the past two years without any exposure whatsoever. … We need to know what happened to our money, because when the Fed hands out our money, every dollar in your pocket, every dollar in your checking account, every dollar in your 401(k) becomes that much cheaper and less in value.” Treasury officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Opponents of subjecting the Fed to audits argue that the central bank needs to operate in secrecy to set monetary policy free of political influences. Grayson also had harsh words for Republicans who are suggesting the Obama administration was wrong to read Miranda rights to terror suspect Faisal Shahzad: “Look, for eight years the Republicans tried to shred the constitution when they were in charge. You'd think they would give up on it when they were no longer in charge.” He was more generous in his overall assessment of the president’s liberal chops. Grayson has positioned himself as something of a champion on the left, with active fundraising on some of his more outspoken comments at his Website, “I think the president is making reasonable progress in the things that matter to Americans. I think health care reform is a tremendous generational accomplishment; it's a landmark for this whole generation, and I think the president is making systematic efforts in other areas too. As you can tell from my tie, I wish he'd make more of an effort to end the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.” About his ties — Grayson is semi-famous for his range of money-themed neckwear — the congressman wasn’t opening himself up to any audits. He wouldn’t give up the location of his favorite tie shop: “You know if I told you, I'd have to kill you,” he said. Watch the “Top Line” segment with Rep. Alan Grayson HERE.  
We also handicapped the results of yesterday’s primaries in Ohio, Indiana, and North Carolina — plus the surprise retirement of Rep. David Obey, D-Wis. — with Politico’s Alexander Burns. Watch that "Top Line" segment HERE.   UPDATE:  After the program aired, Treasury spokesman Andrew Williams dismissed Grayson’s comments, saying that Geithner has been forthcoming with Congress about his actions — with 33 and counting appearances before congressional committees. “This is absolutely ridiculous,” Williams said. ABC’s Matthew Jaffe contributed to this report.

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