Linda Qiu
By Linda Qiu June 2, 2015

Had the Goldman Sachs CEO said his picks are Hillary Clinton or Jeb Bush?

A Jeb Bush-Hillary Clinton contest would be a win-win scenario for Wall Street, says former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley.

In his presidential campaign announcement on May 30, 2015, O’Malley attacked Bush and Clinton for their supposed mutual backer, Goldman Sachs, the poster child of big, bad Wall Street.

"Recently, the CEO of Goldman Sachs let his employees know that he’d be just fine with either Bush or Clinton," O’Malley said. "Well, I’ve got news for the bullies of Wall Street: The presidency is not a crown to be passed back and forth by you between two royal families."

We were curious about O’Malley’s claim on whether Goldman CEO Lloyd Blankfein would sign off on both the presumed Republican and Democratic frontrunners, especially in front of the firm's 34,400 employees. Goldman Sachs spokesperson Andrew Williams told us, "We’ve looked high and low and found no such statement by Mr. Blankfein." 

One side of the aisle is clear: Blankfein has fundraised for Clinton. It’s actually his support for Bush where the evidence in lacking.

An O’Malley spokesperson pointed us to an article published in March 2015 in Politico magazine. In it, economic reporter Ben White detailed Blankfein’s close relationship with the Clintons and wrote,"Blankfein has indicated he would be fine with either a Bush or Clinton presidency."

White told us in an email that to his knowledge, Blankfein has never stated this publicly, though he’s suggested it privately, according to anonymous sources close to the CEO.

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His long-time support for Clinton, however, is out in the open. Blankfein, a self-described Democrat, personally contributed $4,600 to her last presidential campaign (and thousands to past Democratic presidential candidates). He told Politico magazine in 2014, "I very much was supportive of Hillary Clinton the last go-round," he said. "I held fundraisers for her."

Past comments from the Goldman executive do indicate some political fluidity. In 2013, Blankfein said he likes both Hillary Clinton and Chris Christie, "people who are moderated and see the other side," according to BuzzFeed.

That’s the attitude on Wall Street in general, experts say. Goldman and its peers tend to play the middle, said economic historian and former banker Charles Geisst. Centrists like Clinton or Bush would maintain the financial status quo, while candidates like Bernie Sanders or Ted Cruz, "people on the fringes, make them nervous," said journalist William Cohan, who wrote a book on the firm. And even if Blankfein personally favors Clinton, he and Wall Street are in it to win it.

"It’s about access, access, access...Goldman wants to back the winner. They’re traders who’ll hedge their bets," said Cohan.

As for Goldman and Wall Street’s opinion of Martin O’Malley? "I suspect anyone to the right of Elizabeth Warren or Sanders would get the same sort of hedged support," said Geisst.   

Our ruling

O’Malley said, "The CEO of Goldman Sachs let his employees know that he’d be just fine with either Bush or Clinton."

The O’Malley campaign referred us a Politico article that stated a much more ambiguous version of the claim. The article’s author told us CEO Lloyd Blankfein has never stated this publicly, much less to the company's 34,400 employees. Blankfein has thrown his weight and money behind Clinton publicly, but he hasn't done the same for Bush. Overall, we rate O’Malley’s claim Mostly False.

Our Sources

Email interview with Andrew Williams, Vice President of Media Relations at Goldman Sachs, June 2, 2015

Email interview with Ben White, economic reporter at Politico, June 2, 2015

Email interview with Charles Geisst, professor of economics and finance at Manhattan College, June 1, 2015

Interview with William Cohan, author of Money and Power: How Goldman Sachs Came to Rule the World, June 1, 2015

Email interview with Haley Morris, spokeswoman for Martin O’Malley, June 1, 2015

Federal Election Commission, Lloyd Blankfein Campaign Contributions, accessed June 1 2015

YouTube, Martin O'Malley Announces His Candidacy For President Of The United States, May 31, 2015

Politico, The Goldman Sachs primary, March 31, 2015

Fox Business News, Goldman Sachs Execs Switch Gears, Go Red, March 6, 2015

New York Post, Wall Street's 'no lose' view of 2016, Feb. 8, 2015

Politico, Wall Street Republicans' dark secret: Hillary Clinton 2016, April 28, 2014

BuzzFeed News, Goldman CEO On Chris Christie: "I Like Him, I Do, I Think He’s Authentic," Nov. 12, 2013

 

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