In Washington, lobbyists, trade association leaders and journalists are passing around names that President-elect Donald Trump may be considering for key economic policy positions.
His choices to lead Treasury, Trade, Commerce, Labor and Housing and other departments will help shape Trumponomics in 2017. So whom will he choose?
Here are the leading candidates — based on informed speculation from an array of well-connected insiders. NPR journalists John Ydstie, Chris Arnold and yours truly reached out to our sources. We’re not saying this list is right; we’re saying this is what informed people are saying:
The leading candidate appears to be Steven Mnuchin, who was Trump’s campaign finance chairman. Mnuchin has built a career as a Wall Street banker, first as a Goldman Sachs partner and now as chief executive of the hedge fund Dune Capital Management.
During the 2008-2009 financial crisis, he assembled a group of investors, including George Soros and hedge fund titan John Paulson, to buy IndyMac, a mortgage lender. The bank, renamed OneWest Bank, became known for quickly foreclosing on homeowners who fell behind on payments. In 2011, scores of protesters marched on Mnuchin’s mansion to call attention to the rapid-fire foreclosures.
Mnuchin also was an executive producer of the movies American Sniper and Mad Max: Fury Road.
Other names bouncing around include JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon; House Financial Services Chairman Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas; and Kevin Warsh, a former Federal Reserve governor who is now at Stanford’s Hoover Institution.
U.S. Trade Representative
A top candidate may be tech leader Peter Thiel. Last month, in a speech at the National Press Club, Thiel said, “Free trade has not worked out well for all of America. … We’ve lost tens of thousands of factories and millions of jobs to foreign trade. The heartland has been devastated.”
Thiel is a billionaire who made his fortune as an entrepreneur, hedge fund manager and venture capitalist. He is best-known as the founder of PayPal and an early investor in Facebook.
Another name in the hopper is Dan DiMicco, who joined Nucor Steel as a metallurgist and rose to become the chief executive. In his retirement, he has been serving as a senior trade adviser to Trump. He agrees with Trump that the government should get much tougher on trade enforcement.
Billionaire investor Wilbur Ross’ name comes up often. He made his fortune by restructuring “distressed” companies using borrowed money. He may be best-known for his 2002 efforts to roll together several American steel companies into International Steel Group. He cut costs and employees, and then in 2005, sold the business to Mittal Steel, headquartered in The Netherlands.
Other names kicking around include Georgia Republican Sen. David Perdue; former Missouri Republican Sen. Jim Talent; former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee; New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie; and Lewis Eisenberg, who co-founded the private equity firm Granite Capital International Group and was chairman of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey at the time of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
The name that comes up most often is Victoria Lipnic, a lawyer who has served on the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission since 2010. She is a Republican who was appointed by President Obama.
During President George W. Bush’s administration, she served as assistant secretary of labor for employment standards.
Housing And Urban Development
Several names are being floated for this position. Leading candidates include former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown, an attorney with expertise in real estate law, and former House Rep. Rick Lazio of New York. In the 1990s, Lazio was chairman of the House Banking Subcommittee on Housing and Community Opportunity.
Another possibility is Pam Patenaude, president of the J. Ronald Terwilliger Foundation for Housing America’s Families. During the George W. Bush administration, she served as HUD assistant secretary for community, planning and development.
The federal government has many agencies that can have an enormous impact on the economy, and all will get new appointees. Here are just a few: Securities and Exchange Commission, Federal Communications Commission, Environmental Protection Agency, Food and Drug Administration, Federal Aviation Administration, Internal Revenue Service, Federal Highway Administration. And on and on and on …