Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., all but pointed the finger of blame directly at the "Obama economic team" Wednesday for allegedly stripping a provision from the stimulus package last month that would have slapped a heavy tax on bonuses like the ones doled out at AIG.
Though lawmakers are now trying to recoup some of the $165 million in bonuses through taxation, Wyden and Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, had included a provision to tax executive bonuses at 35 percent in the stimulus -- it was later stripped.
Asked to whom he spoke with back in February when he was fighting to keep the item, Wyden said, "Secretary Geithner, Larry Summers, and I'll leave it at that."
Wyden said he and his co-sponsor Snowe battled administration officials, trying to convince them that the public would be outraged at excessive bonuses, but, Wyden said, "I was never able to convince them that this was something that ought to be included."
The Wyden-Snowe provision was mysteriously dropped in the early February closed-door negotiations over the stimulus bill -- intense meetings that involved Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, Obama economic adviser Larry Summers, White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and budget director Peter Orszag, as well as senior Democratic members of Congress.
Wyden said Summers and Geithner argued that there were "contractual obligations" as they worked to kill Wyden-Snowe.
When asked if the Obama administration has handled the AIG situation well, he pointed against at Summers and Geithner.
"I think the administration, at best, is sending mixed messages," he said. "You have the president being very forthright and very blunt...My sense is that the economic team has not followed up."