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Ex-TARP Chief Neel Kashkari Mulls Bid for Office in Calif.

File photo of Neel Kashkari testifying before the House Domestic Policy Subcommittee during a hearing on Capitol Hill March 11, 2009 in Washington, DC. Kashkari plans to leave his post at Pimco and run for office in California. (Getty Images)
  • United States

    Neel T. Kashkari, former overseer of the federal government’s much-knocked Troubled Asset Relief Program, said Jan. 23 he has decided to quit his post at Newport Beach, Calif.-based Pacific Investment Management Co. to seriously consider running for office in California. 

    The 39-year-old Indian American financial manager told The Wall Street Journal Jan. 23 — more than four years after the U.S. financial crisis — that he plans to run under the Republican banner.
    “As I look at California, there are huge problems. These challenges are huge, but they’re of our own making — so they are within our capacity to solve.”
    “I’m not the typical California Republican,” he said. “I’m the son of immigrants. I come from a modest upbringing. I have a successful track record. I’m an optimist. And I think something can be done if people work together,” he told the Journal.
    Kashkari was hired by Pimco in 2009 to help turn the bond-fund firm into a force in the equity-fund market. Since then, the company, a unit of Allianz SE, has launched six new stock funds whose performance “has been spotty,” the Journal believes.
    “All six funds lagged behind benchmarks assigned by Morningstar in 2012, using the institutional class of shares as the metric,” the newspaper opined.
    Kashkari responded that his six funds are designed to limit downside risk and tend to trail an upward market.
    The financial executive did not inform the news media what political office he is pondering.
    A seat in Congress is a possibility, since the Newport Beach area and much of Orange County are strong Republican strongholds. He just needs to establish residency.
    A statewide office would be more challenging, since Democrats, including Attorney General Kamala Harris, another Indian American, currently hold all the statewide seats.
    The next U.S. Senate race would not take place until 2016, when Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer’s term expires.
    Gov. Jerry Brown, 74, also a Democrat, has not indicated if he will run again in 2014. If he runs, he would be hard to beat, given his recent successes in passing a state tax initiative and balancing the state budget.
    Kashkari had created a Web page emphasizing his core concerns. He said on it: “California has so many strengths — a vibrant, diverse, hardworking population, world-class universities, unparalleled natural resources and beauty — it is up to us to unlock its potential and fulfill the dreams of all of our people. Our government must work for all Californians.”
    “I am reaching out to leaders in communities across California to hear their ideas, share my own, and explore how I can best effect positive change in our state. After decades of benign neglect, I believe it is our duty to finally have an honest discussion about these issues and take bold action to help all Californians succeed.”
    Contacted at his new Web site, Kashkari, through a representative, told India-West Jan. 29 “he is not doing any interviews” at this time.
    A native of Akron, Ohio, Kashkari moved to California in 1997 to work as an aerospace engineer for TRW. After getting an MBA, he worked for Goldman Sachs, where he met Goldman CEO Henry M. Paulson Jr.
    When Paulson became Treasury secretary in 2006, Kashkari asked about joining the government and became interim assistant secretary for financial stability. A Paulson lieutenant, he co-wrote a bank rescue proposal, “Break the Glass,” which formed the basis of what became TARP.
    In 2009, when leading TARP, he got the nickname the “$700 Billion Man,” after the size of the bailout.
    He acknowledged to the Journal that TARP is part of his baggage.
    “Obviously TARP is very unpopular. But it’s the best example we have in modern history of Democrats and Republicans coming together to do something controversial but absolutely necessary and absolutely successful,” he said.
    “Both Sacramento and Washington, D.C., have a lot of politicians who want to do the easy things which (will) make them popular. We’re out of easy things to do.”
    The Journal reported that U.S. Treasury Department said Jan. 22 that it has recovered $387 billion, or nearly 93 percent, of TARP funding.
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