Steve Rattner is Bloomberg’s newest behind the scenes 2020 operative
Longtime establishment Democrat and Wall Street financier Steven L. Rattner has managed the vast fortune of Michael Bloomberg for years and he is beginning to play a role inside the former New York City mayor’s 2020 presidential campaign, FOX Business has learned.
Rattner, a former investment banker, journalist and the CEO of Bloomberg's family office, through the firm Willett Advisors LLC, has recently briefed other prominent New Yorkers on behalf of the former mayor to encourage their endorsement of Bloomberg, according to people with direct knowledge of the matter. At least one other Willett employee has shifted to working for the Bloomberg campaign as well, according to a person with knowledge of the matter.
Rattner did not return repeated calls and emails for comment.
Rattner, 67, has been managing money for Bloomberg since 2010 when he helped created Willett, which oversees parts of Bloomberg's personal wealth estimated at $63 billion as well as his vast philanthropic assets. During a 40-year career as an investment banker, Rattner has build expansive network among elite players in politics, finance and the media. Rattner began his career as a reporter for the New York Times, left in the early 1980s to join Lehman Brothers and then spend time at Morgan Stanley and Lazard Freres.
He later created the private equity firm Quadrangle Group before launching Willett in 2010, which according to its website "manages the philanthropic assets of Michael R. Bloomberg, including the assets of Bloomberg Philanthropies. The firm has its headquarters in New York."
On the political side, Rattner has raised significant sums of money for Democrats and served in the Obama Administration as its so-called auto czar, or special adviser to then Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner on the government bailouts of the automobile manufacturers during the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis. His wife Maureen White, is also a prominent Democratic fundraiser, and she served in the administrations of former presidents Clinton and Obama. She was finance co-chair of Hillary Clinton’s failed 2008 presidential campaign.
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“Rattner is basically working for the campaign and his wife is all-in supporting Mike,” said one Bloomberg campaign insider. “Rattner is doing briefings for the campaign at their Times Square headquarters.”
Bloomberg spokesman Stu Loeser downplayed Rattner’s role in the campaign.
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“Steve does not work for the campaign. Does not do briefings,” Loeser said in an email to FOX Business. “He did speak briefly at a volunteer event, as a (fellow) volunteer, albeit one who works for Mike's investment team.”
Loeser did not answer emails or telephone calls as to whether Rattner’s involvement goes beyond such events.
News of Rattner’s involvement could be problematic for Bloomberg, who faces criticism he is buying the election with the wealth he accumulated from his eponymous news and financial data outfit that made him one of the richest men in America. As FOX Business was first to report, Bloomberg is planning to spend as much as $2 billion of his fortune on the 2020 campaign to either personally defeat President Trump — whom he loathes — or finance the Democratic nominee.
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But he is facing challenges from the progressive wing of the party — namely Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who are competing for the nomination. Both are expected to attack Bloomberg on a range of issues, including his ties to establishment Democrats and Wall Street money-men during Wednesday night’s Democratic presidential debate in Las Vegas.
Rattner’s involvement in the campaign could further underscore Bloomberg’s connections to the party’s elite wing, which its progressive base now abhors. Another complicating factor is Rattner’s legal issues from a few years back. In 2010, he was charged with civil fraud by the Securities and Exchange Commission in what was described as a “kickback scheme” to obtain brokerage business from the New York State pension fund. He also faced civil charges over the matter brought by then New York attorney general Andrew Cuomo.
Rattner settled with the SEC paying $6.2 million without admitting or denying wrongdoing. He settled with the New York attorney general for $10 million also without admitting to wrongdoing. Bloomberg has defended his association with Rattner after the legal issues surfaced telling the New York Times in 2013: “Steve is a good friend. You stick by your friends. And I don’t worry about what people say … I never heard anyone say they wouldn’t invite Steven Rattner to a party because of what was happening.”
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Through all the controversy, Rattner has maintained a significant media presence, which he has used recently to support Bloomberg and at times bash his opponents. He is a regular contributor on MSNBC, where he has attacked President Trump and Bloomberg's chief democratic rivals, Warren and Sanders, and penned scathing op-eds in the New York Times that described the progressive agenda of Sanders and Warren as "bad politics and dubious policy."
Comments he made on MSNBC, in particular, have sparked criticism from Sanders campaign official David Sirota who tweeted: