Even during his most frenzied days, when Congress is demanding answers or the president himself is calling, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner makes time to talk to a select group of powerful Wall Street bankers.
They are a small cadre of businessmen who have known and worked with Geithner for years, whose multibillion-dollar companies all survived the economic crisis with help from U.S. taxpayers.
When they call, Geithner answers. He has spoken with them immediately after hanging up with President Barack Obama and before heading up to Capitol Hill, between phone calls with senators and after talking with the Federal Reserve chairman, according to a review by The Associated Press of seven months of his appointment calendars.
The calendars, obtained by the AP under the Freedom of Information Act, offer a behind-the-scenes glimpse at the continued influence of three companies — Citigroup , JPMorgan Chase and Goldman Sachs Group — whose executives can reach the nation's most powerful economic official on the phone, sometimes several times a day.
There is nothing inherently wrong with senior Treasury Department officials speaking regularly with industry executives, or even with the secretary keeping tabs on the market's biggest players, even though critics say Geithner risks succumbing too much to these bankers' self-interested worldview.
"It's appropriate for Treasury officials to keep in touch with those who work in the markets every day, particularly when the economy and the markets are so fragile," Treasury spokesman Andrew Williams said.
What the calendars show, however, is that only a select few can call the treasury secretary.