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Treasury's Geithner meets with bloggers

By Ariana Eunjung Cha

Last week, U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner sat down for closed-door meetings with some of the nation's most influential voices in economic regulation and policymaking: bloggers.

Treasury spokesman Andrew Williams said in an interview that Geithner has long been following the online discussion among bloggers. When Geithner was at the New York Federal Reserve, he asked his staff to compile a daily compendium on what was being said in the blogosphere.

So when Geithner took the top job at Treasury, the natural next step seemed to be to begin direct conversations with some of them.

"It has become clear that financial bloggers are influential over reporters so there's some sort of link there. They are often subject matter experts," Williams said.

Williams said the discussion during the blogger gatherings is different from roundtables with traditional media outlets in that "they are looking more beyond the immediate news cycle." "They are more frequently conversations that are more theoretical and long-term," he said.

Some bloggers have become regulars at the meetings, which the Treasury Department has been holding for about a year. Others have expressed surprise to have been invited at all.

"This time we even had someone write us an email saying, 'Don't you know who I am? Because I've been pretty critical. Do you really want me to come?' Williams recounted.

Treasury officials responded just as pointedly: "We said sure," Williams recalled. "We're happy to talk. We don't bite."

The Commerce Department has also been reaching out to bloggers. On Aug. 5, Commerce held a blogger roundtable with Francisco J. Sánchez, undersecretary for international trade. In an email promoting the event, Commerce's public affairs team promised that "the roundtable will give you not only the opportunity to meet the Under Secretary, but to 'interview' him in a conversational, relaxed environment that will provide an insider's angle and unique perspective." In case you missed it, note that the word "interview" was in quotes.

Bloggers John Lounsbury, Mike Konczal and Steven Randolph Waldman were mostly positive about the Treasury meeting they attended on Monday.

Lounsbury, a certified financial planner in Clayton, N.C. who contributes to the blog SeekingAlpha, recounted that the Monday meeting ran for more than two hours. In addition to Geithner, Michael Barr, assistant secretary for financial institutions, and Matthew Kabaker, deputy assistant secretary for capital markets, also attended.

"It was more like a brainstorming session and ideas were flying around the room in a very stimulating way...A number of guests raised confrontational topics and some defensiveness by Treasury officials did occur, but my impression was that defensiveness was limited and open exchange occurred."

Konczal wrote:

"Geithner is very smart and personable, and it was very useful to chat with Treasury officials on background over the strengths and weaknesses of the financial reform bill."

Waldman conceded:

"It is bizarro world for me to go to these things. First, let me confess right from the start, I had a great time. I pose as an outsider and a crank. But when summoned to the court, this jester puts on his bells. I am very, very angry at Treasury, and the administration it serves. But put me at a table with smart, articulate people who are willing to argue but who are otherwise pleasant towards me, and I will like them."

Yves Smith at Naked Capitalism was less enthusiastic. She wasn't so sure what the Treasury team was up to with the blogger confabs.

"One has to think they anticipate that, which then begs the question of what they expect to accomplish with these meetings. We aren't journalists, so the access card does not work; the infrequency and format of these sessions means they don't build personal rapport (and there are good reasons why not; from our end, it costs time and money to go to DC; from their end, we aren't important enough to warrant more frequent contact). So they may have other motivations, but a safe assumption is that they regard this as marketing..."

Here's the complete list of bloggers who attended the two sessions last week--the first was for "non-salaried" bloggers who are not affiliated with media outlets and the second for those who are.

Monday, Aug. 16

George Mason University professors Tyler Cowen and Alex Tabarrock, whose brainy blog Marginal Revolution's has an eye-popping 181,000 RSS subscribers, according to Google Reader

Philip Royston Davis who publishes the popular Phil's Stock World and blogs at Seeking Alpha

Michael Thomas Konczal, a fellow at the Roosevelt Institute, whose blog at
Rortybomb has become to must-read for those interested in financial reform

"Yves Smith" - Susan Elizabeth Webber, a founder of Aurora Advisors, a New York-based management consulting firm, who is known for her thorough dissection of economic issues on the Naked Capitalism blog

John Lounsbury, a certified financial planner in Clayton, N.C. whose thoughtful commentary is read by 50,000 regular followers on the blog SeekingAlpha

Steven Randolph Waldman, whose critical blog posts at Interfluidity about Treasury have been influencing the debate over how Geithner has handled the bailout

Wednesday, Aug. 18

Mike Allen, Politico

Nicholas Ascher Baumann, Mother Jones

Richard Eskow, OurFuture

Tim Fernholz, American Prospect

Ezra Klein, Washington Post

Shahien Nasiripour, Huffington Post

Felix Salmon, Reuters

Derek Thompson, The Atlantic

By Ariana Eunjung Cha  |  August 27, 2010; 12:58 PM ET
Categories:  U.S. Treasury  
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Geithner and Michael Barr? Looks like the anti-Elizabeth Warren faction is marshaling forces to try to influence the blogasphere now. Sorry Timmy, won't work.

Posted by: seriesoftubescleaner | August 27, 2010 5:05 PM | Report abuse

Note the smug, superior smirk.

Why wasn't Krugman there?

Posted by: Anonymous | August 27, 2010 6:29 PM | Report abuse

This man deserves a hard, fast kick in the teeth.

Posted by: lambcannon | August 27, 2010 9:47 PM | Report abuse

What BS. Geithner and Co. are only interested in perpetrating their lies by co-opting some influential bloggers. It makes me sick to hear how "smart" and "personable" Geithner is. He's proven definitively that he is nothing other than a stooge for Wall St.

Fortunately, the basic rules still apply --it's hard for bloggers to pick up readers, and very easy to lose readers. I'm going to re-scrutize those bloggers who seem so enamored with this master of destruction.

Posted by: Anonymous | August 28, 2010 11:53 AM | Report abuse

It's the exporting of American production jobs that is killing this country economically. Basic "high school" economics taught us that having a means of production creates wealth ....... Wall Street & the investment segment just recycle wealth and each time they do so, it gets smaller.

Answer is : Jobs, JOBS, Jobs ........ but "our" politicians have no clue how to being too greedy & short sighted to understand that the collapse of the middle class is here & they too will be effected sooner then they realize.

Posted by: Anonymous | August 29, 2010 5:24 AM | Report abuse

Geithner is another Jewish plant in the American system of finance. Like Bernanke they integrate with the Jewish controlled world banking system to completely dominate the paper money of the world. It's merely bait and switch where they issue and control the money of the world and loan it at an interest rate to the very countries that supposedly issue the money. It's been that way for the last 500 years. Problem is that they have stolen all of the worlds wealth and now there are looking to encumber the yet to be born people of the world to pay off the national debts now being incurred. We have ceded our children to slavery before they are born. It's time for a world wide revolution against the Jewish world of finance and world control. That includes the Jewish rag, the Washington Post.

Posted by: Anonymous | August 29, 2010 4:45 PM | Report abuse

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