WASHINGTON — Former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley has been bashing Hillary Clinton for being too cozy with Wall Street, but he's got some ties of his own to financial big-wigs.
O'Malley has been looking to show he's a populist warrior in the Democratic presidential primary, hoping he can get to Clinton's left and capitalize on the anti-Wall Street mood coursing through the progressive base while ripping Clinton for her well-heeled support.
"When you have somebody that's the CEO of one of the biggest repeat-offending investment banks in the country telling his employees that he'd be fine with either Bush or Clinton, that should tell all of us something," O’Malley said on ABC Sunday, pointing out that Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein has said he'd be happy with either Clinton or former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush in the White House.
O'Malley also warned the "bullies of Wall Street" during his Saturday campaign announcement that "the presidency is not a crown to be passed back and forth by you between two royal families."
But while he was the finance chairman of the Democratic Governors Association in 2008, Goldman Sachs gave $100,000 to the organization.
O'Malley admitted on Wednesday that he "probably" had asked for big checks from financial giants in the past before refusing to rule out soliciting more from the financial industry for his presidential bid.
"I probably have. I was the chair of the Democratic Governors Association. I'm quite sure I've called everybody that they've put up sheets in front of me," he said when asked about past donations during an event in Washington with the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, referring to the fundraising call sheets candidates dial through looking for donations.
"I'm not prone to call up the head of Goldman Sachs or those individuals, nor am I inclined to tell those people in the financial industry that they shouldn't be involved in my campaign, in fact I think they should," he continued. "There's a lot of good people who work in our financial industry."
That's a different tune than a Wednesday fundraising email from O'Malley's campaign that asked for donations to "help us fight back against Wall Street."
According to CNBC, O'Malley wined and dined with Wall Street leaders including Robert Wolf, president and chief operating officer of UBS Investment Bank, and Marvin Rosen, a corporate and securities lawyer, at the swanky Lever House in November 2013.
Some of O'Malley's current campaign supporters have ties to big banks as well.
George Appleby, who introduced him last weekend in Iowa, is a registered Des Moines lobbyist who counts Wells Fargo and OneMain Financial, formerly the Citigroup Management Corporation, among his clients.
O'Malley began his career as a member of the business-friendly Democratic Leadership Council, and his current rhetoric runs counter to a 2007 op-ed he coauthored with the group's then-leader and former Rep. Harold Ford (D-Tenn.), who currently works for Morgan Stanley and at the time was at Merrill Lynch.
The two wrote then that Democrats must seek a "centrist agenda" and praised Bill Clinton's presidential campaign for its "sensible ideas."
And when O'Malley was governor, he appointed former Legg Mason CEO Richard C. Mike Lewin to the Maryland Transportation Authority and former Deutsche Bank Alex Brown managing director Mark Kaufman to head Maryland's committee on financial regulation.
Kaufman helped O'Malley keep banks from foreclosing on families during the financial crisis and was named the 2014 consumer advocate of the year by the Maryland Consumer Rights Association.
O'Malley is now calling to break up the big banks and reimpose the Glass-Steagall Act, which would impose tighter restrictions on the banking industry.
Professor Adam Sheingate of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore said O'Malley "never took a populist anti-Wall Street stance" when he was mayor or governor, though he pointed out that O'Malley successfully pushed through some new financial regulations while he was in office.
"He can say he took on the financial services industry, and he did some things that I don't think went very far in terms of curtailing payday loans and require banks to renegotiate mortgages instead of foreclose on people," he said.
O'Malley's campaign downplayed his ties to banks.
"Governor O'Malley's strong call to finally rein in Wall Street has clearly struck a chord with the powers that be. They can try to leak as many meaningless tidbits as they want, but Governor O'Malley has shown he will stand up to his own party to call for real structural and accountability reforms of Wall Street," O'Malley spokeswoman Haley Morris told the Daily News.
"Rather than engaging in this silly back and forth, every candidate should have the courage to say where they stand on this issue."