The Countrywide-executive-turned-Senate-aide who crafted the controversial housing finance reform bill has moved back to the private sector—to an asset management firm that would be one of the biggest beneficiaries of the legislation.
Michael Bright, the former senior financial adviser to Sen. Bob Corker (R., Tenn), worked as a mortgage trader at Countrywide Financial and Wachovia before joining the senator’s office. He was one of the key architects of the Corker-Warner housing reform bill and a successive bill initiated by Sens. Mike Crapo (R., Idaho) and Tim Johnson (D., S.D.).
Bright said on Thursday that he recently left Corker’s office to take a job at BlackRock, Inc., a top financial management firm that has mounted an expensive lobbying campaign on the housing finance reform bill.
"I recently began work with BlackRock in their financial markets advisers unit within BlackRock Solutions," Bright wrote in an email to colleagues obtained by the Washington Free Beacon. "I will be splitting time between N.Y. and D.C., but mainly housed in the D.C. office, so I hope to see you all soon."
BlackRock has spent over $3.5 million lobbying on the housing finance reform bill and other securities and investment issues since 2013, according to OpenSecrets.
The firm’s CEO was also spotted at a private dinner with Corker and Warner in 2013, sparking questions about how much influence the company would have on the legislation, Politico reported last year.
Critics of the bill say it disproportionately favors Wall Street and big banks at the expense of taxpayers and puts the public on the hook for a future bailout.
Edward J. Pinto, resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, told the Free Beacon in April that Bright "comes to this definitely from the perspective of those kinds of institutions and Wall Street, and that definitely has colored what’s in the bill."
Bright came under fire earlier this year when the Free Beacon reported that he previously worked as a mortgage trader at Countrywide Financial and Wachovia, two of the subprime mortgage companies that played a role in the 2007 housing crash.
"[Bright’s] totally discredited, he had to go," said Tim Pagliara, a former Corker bundler who broke with the senator over the housing finance reform bill. "He’s got an impressive background, more impressive than Corker’s. He just got caught up in something."
Government watchdogs and opponents of the legislation criticized Bright’s involvement in April as an example of the "reverse revolving-door," in which private industry influences public policy decisions.
"The question is, is he really doing the people’s business or is he feathering his own nest for future advancement?"Ken Boehm, the chair of the National Legal Policy Center, told the Free Beacon at the time.
Good-government advocates say Bright’s move to BlackRock appears to confirm these concerns.
"This is the worst of the revolving door use, when you go both ways through it," said Public Citizen’s Craig Holman. "That really shows his lack of public commitment, and shows that he’s much more interested in personal gain."
While Holman said Bright is not legally allowed to lobby the Senate for a full year, he is not restricted from lobbying in the House. He can also provide contacts and inside knowledge to BlackRock’s lobbying team and give advice to former colleagues on the Hill.
The Senate Banking Committee approved the housing finance reform legislation earlier this year. A similar measure was introduced in the House in July.
Corker’s office and a spokesperson for BlackRock did not return requests for comment.