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Obama and CEOs: Reading the tea leaves

President Obama signed the financial regulatory bill into law this morning, and observers have been poring over the ceremony invitation list to see which banking CEOs are in favor, and which ones aren't.

As the Post's Michael Shear notes, J.P. Morgan Chase's Jamie Dimon was not invited to attend, further confirmation that Obama and Dimon's once-burgeoning partnership isn't what it used to be.

Dimon once sat in the front row at events like the president's speech in February to the Business Roundtable. At the time, it made sense for the White House to cultivate a relationship with him, rather than, say, Goldman's Lloyd Blankfein. Dimon has long been a darling of the business press (see Duff McDonald's glowing book last year, Last Man Standing).

But by this spring, after some sniping from Dimon, the White House appeared to have found a new ally on Wall Street: Bank of America's Brian Moynihan, who was invited to the event this morning but couldn't attend.

The White House has been trying to develop stronger direct relationships with chief executives, like Xerox's Ursula Burns and Honeywell's David Cote, rather than working with trade groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. As more than one lobbyist has pointed out to me, the president has managed to vilify lobbyists while still inviting certain chief executives, very publicly, to intimate meals and meetings. The goal: the White House doesn't look like it's beholden to business interests but it does look like it's trying to understand the needs of business.

That plan, however, has hit some road bumps lately. One of the White House's chief partners on business policy, the Business Roundtable, appears to be going the way of Dimon: you can invite us to dinner, but that won't stop us from turning around and saying some negative things.

Today's example: the tough response from the Business Roundtable about the financial regulatory bill being signed into law:

"Business Roundtable has long advocated for effective, measured financial regulatory reform; however, our member CEOs are concerned that the Restoring American Financial Stability Act, signed today by President Obama, takes our country in the wrong direction. This legislation, while drafted with the best intentions, paints the U.S. business community with a broad brush and will have many unintended consequences for the more than 12,000 non-financial publicly traded companies.

"Regrettably, this legislation imposes a one-size-fits-all approach on a very diverse, vibrant set of economic participants, stifling America's ability to encourage investment, innovation and job growth, while promoting economic uncertainty for small and large businesses alike."

By Jia Lynn Yang  |  July 21, 2010; 10:10 AM ET
Categories:  Financial regulation  
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