When, this morning, during the House Financial Services Committee hearing on AIG oversight, Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., referred to the "small group of Wall Street types that are making decisions," she wasn´t talking about just any finance experts. She was wiggling a finger under the lid of the biggest conspiracy this side of 9/11-or so she made it seem.
"This small group of decision makers-at the center of it is Goldman Sachs-that's what's causing a lot of the distrust," said a very agitated Waters to one of the hearing´s witnesses, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner. "People are thinking or believing that Goldman Sachs, because of the connections, has a lot to do with the decisions that are being made."
Waters was intoning that from the beginning of the string of government interventions into failing financial firms, Goldman bankers were steering the course of events in order to assure their own firm´s continued health. She fired off questions to Geithner over Goldman´s role in the sale of Bear Stearns, the decision to let Lehman Brothers fail, and the orchestration of the AIG bailout.
At times, Geithner barely got through an answer, as with the issue of the Bear sale. Waters pressed him on whether Goldman had been a bidder as he stuttered a response that the firm hadn´t had a material effect on the government´s actions. "Goldman Sachs was involved in some way," she concluded, moving on.
For Waters, the performance wasn´t totally out of the ordinary; she seems, during hot-button hearings, to press witnesses relentlessly on a chosen issue that she believes will reveal a smoking gun. As her line of questioning during the committee´s interrogation of the eight big bank CEOs earlier this year demonstrated, that goal can be elusive.