On the Money Trail: Despite Crisis, Wall Street Gets Red Carpet from Obama

Top executives from Citigroup and UBS among those spotted at elite parties.

ByABC News
January 19, 2009, 10:45 AM

Jan. 20, 2009— -- Wall Street firms may be in crisis, but some of their executives have been enjoying four-star treatment from Barack Obama's inauguration team.

ABC News spotted senior Citigroup executive Louis Susman entering an elite party Sunday night for top fundraisers to Obama's inauguration fund and Obama officials, including incoming White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel. Citigroup lost $8 billion last quarter, and has taken $45 billion in taxpayer bailout funds. Susman raised $300,000 for Obama's inaugural committee.

"We're talking about an industry that's right in the middle of a bailout program," said Craig Holman of the Washington, D.C. watchdog group Public Citizen. "They want a seat at the table with the Obama administration."

The party, at the swanky Park at Fourteenth restaurant and club in downtown Washington, D.C., wasn't mentioned on the inauguration committee's public Web site. Reporters and cameras were not allowed inside.

Watch live coverage of the Inauguration all day Tuesday beginning with "Good Morning America" at 7 a.m. ET and go to the Inauguration Guide for all of ABC News' coverage details.

Susman could not be reached for comment Monday; he declined an earlier request to appear on camera. A Citigroup spokesperson said the bank was not participating in any inauguration-related events, and any executives present were there in a personal capacity.

Because he raised so much money for the inauguration, Obama's committee would have given Susman some other nice perks: access to a VIP seating area for its Sunday "We Are One" superstar concert at the Lincoln Memorial, a comfortable table inside a high-end restaurant from which to watch the inaugural parade Tuesday, and more.

A spokesman for Obama's Presidential Inaugural Committee said Monday he saw no conflict in honoring Susman with special access and private events, because the group made no secret of Susman's generosity. "We believe this information should be out there," said Brent Colburn, "so the air is clear on who is supporting the efforts of the Presidential Inaugural Committee. . . so we can be clean and open."