As Treasury Secretary, Tim Geithner’s public image has generally seemed “not quite ready for prime time.” But his PR acumen as president of the New York Fed was in large part credited for landing him the job — and now we know why. Geithner made one-on-one coffee dates, luncheons, tennis games, dinners and conference calls with reporters a major part of his job at the New York Fed, from the looks of the official schedule posted this morning by the New York Times. In addition to regular press briefings, backgrounders and whatever Geithner slipped in on his own time, Geithner scheduled one-on-one time for more than 68 journalists from 2007 to 2008, including twelve from the New York Times, ten from the Wall Street Journal and eight from the Financial Times. His favorite journalist by far appears to be Krishna Guha, an editorial page writer at the Financial Times, to whom he granted 12 interviews.
The Journal’s Jon Hilsenrath and David Wessel, the FT’s Gillian Tett and Chrystia Freedland and House of Cards author William Cohan also make a lot of appearances on Geithner’s schedule, in addition to professional pundits Fareed Zakariah and Tom Friedman. What’s particularly striking about Geithner’s media schedule is how willing he seemed to be to speak individually with multiple reporters from the same media outlet: some days he would speak separately with three different FT journalists. As the Times has pointed out, Geithner wasn’t necessarily satisfied with his press; the schedule shows three meetings with a publicist who represents Citigroup, and a few others with New York PR patriarch Howard Rubenstein.
Other regulars on Geithner’s schedule: Ben Bernanke; the Kissinger clan, with whom Geithner seemed to be endlessly dining in 2007 and 2008; former New York Fed Chief and Goldman Sachs managing director Gerald Corrigan and Pete Peterson, the Blackstone Group co-founder who recruited Geithner to the position; the usual suspects from Citigroup, which tried to poach Geithner from his spot in 2007; Josh Steiner, the business partner of embattled car czar Steve Rattner; a hairstylist (or salon?) named Felix and real estate magnate Jerry Speyer of the Tishman-Speyer property behemoth, who chairs the board of the New York Fed. Speyer shows up 20 times on the schedule — most likely in part because of the massive Fannie and Freddie-backed deal Tishman and Lehman Brothers inked in 2007 to buy the Archstone-Smith luxury apartment portfolio — one of the deals that would later lead to Lehman’s demise.
Perhaps equally telling is who doesn’t show up on Geithner’s schedule. His predecessor in the post, Bill McDonough, only seems to have met with him twice; same goes for Sheila Bair, the FDIC chairman Geithner is said to dislike, who doesn’t make an appearance until October. Former Fed chairmen Alan Greenspan and Paul Volcker and former Treasury secretaries Larry Summers and Bob Rubin show up, of course, as does Paulson’s predecessor John Snow, who represents the hedge fund and Chrysler parent company Cerberus — but Paul O’Neill, who served during the accounting scandals that foreshadowed the current disaster and is perhaps the most intellectually honest man to hold the post in the past few decades, never does. O’Neill, of course, was unceremoniously sacked by an administration that eventually came to see him as a PR liability. He probably has a few words of counsel for Tim Geithner right now.