Obama’s leading contender for chief of staff is JPMorgan exec

By Sahil Kapur
Tuesday, January 4, 2011 7:00 EDT
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An executive of JPMorgan Chase & Co with close ties to President Barack Obama’s inner circle has shot to the top of the list for next White House chief of staff, according to news reports.

Bloomberg reported Monday that William Daley, who serves on JPMorgan’s Executive Committee in charge of Corporate Responsibility and was US Secretary of Commerce during the Clinton administration, may be tapped to replace Rahm Emanuel for the high-powered job.

Sources confirmed the news to ABC News and Lynn Sweet of the Chicago Sun-Times, who added on her Politics Daily blog that Daley is “at the top of the list for chief of staff,” a position that entails so much influence it has been termed “co-president.”

But no decisions have yet been made regarding the the post, which is being held on an interim basis by longtime Obama confidant Pete Rouse, who may or may not stay.

The White House has declined to offer an official comment on the reports.

A Chicago native, Daley, 62, is brother of the city’s major Richard Daley, and comes from a family of Democratic politicians. He also has close ties to Emanuel and White House senior adviser David Axelrod, both of whom are Chicago natives and have shaped the Obama presidency.

Daley was an economic adviser to Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign and co-chaired his transition team. As a Clinton adviser, he helped shape the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and worked on trade relations with China. He’s currently a board member of the centrist Democratic think tank “Third Way.”

He joined JPMorgan in 2004 as Midwest Chairman, and in 2007 began to lead the firm’s efforts in corporate social reponsibility.

Tapping a corporate executive for the key position at a time when the nation is focused on the economy would cast the president as a business-friendly centrist, serving as an olive branch to conservative critics while inevitably irritating his progressive base.

Liberal Democrats regularly complain that the White House is too cozy with business, arguing that corporate special interests have held undue influence over the outcomes of key initiatives such as health care and financial reform.

But the serious consideration of Daley for the critical position reflects that the president, who faces a reinvigorated Republican presence in Congress after his first two years, may be more interested in placating conservatives who depict the administration as anti-business.

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