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Business Welcomes a White House Ally

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President Barack Obama named William Daley to be his new chief of staff, setting off waves of applause from business groups that like his background on corporate boards and as President Bill Clinton’s Commerce secretary.

President Barack Obama’s new chief of staff, William Daley, is being welcomed by the business lobby, which views the former bank executive as a kindred spirit who at least will give their issues a fair airing in the White House.

Daley has built up a network of support on K Street over the past two decades, both as Commerce secretary under President Bill Clinton as well as in his top positions with some of the nation’s most prominent companies.

While that background concerns liberal activists, business officials said they will have someone in the White House inner circle who can plead their case on issues such as trade, regulation and taxes.

“He’s a great guy,” said Frank Vargo, the vice president for international economic affairs at the National Association of Manufacturers. The group has battled the Obama administration on a number of fronts, including health care and environmental regulations.

Vargo, who worked with Daley on trade issues when they both worked at the Commerce Department, said he “moves easily with CEOs.” He suggested that Daley is someone who will seek common ground between the White House and the business community.

“He’s a solid addition to the president’s circle of advisers,” said Scott Talbott, the senior vice president for government affairs for the Financial Services Roundtable. The trade association represents insurance, financial services and banks, including JPMorgan Chase & Co., Daley’s former employer.

One of the top priorities for Talbott’s group in the upcoming session will be legislation dealing with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Daley is familiar with the federal mortgage entities, having served on Fannie Mae’s board from 1993 to 1996. Daley’s son, William Daley Jr., was also a lobbyist for Fannie Mae.

Daley’s relationship with Washington’s business lobbyists dates back to the early 1990s, when he quarterbacked the Clinton administration’s campaign to garner support for the North American Free Trade Agreement. The pact was supported by businesses but bitterly opposed by a number of Democratic constituencies including labor unions.

As a result of his promotion of free trade and his business ties, organized labor was decidedly cool to Daley’s appointment. Other liberal groups were more outspoken. Justin Ruben, the executive director of MoveOn.Org, called Obama’s decision “troubling” because of Daley’s ties to what he said were “Big Banks and Big Business.”

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