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Senator Convinces Colleagues to Drop Opposition to Liberal State Nominee

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Unread 09.21.11, 03:58 PM
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Senator Convinces Colleagues to Drop Opposition to Liberal State Nominee

On 09.21.11 10:45 AM posted by Lachlan Markay

Wendy Sherman was supposed to face a difficult Senate confirmation for the No. 3 job at the State Department. But when a Republican senator convinced his GOP colleagues to lift their holds on her nomination, Sherman sailed through the Senate without even a floor vote last week.

Sherman brings to the State Department a resume that includes stints at the controversial Fannie Mae Foundation and left-wing women’s group Emily’s List. She once oversaw questionable policies toward North Korea and early in her career conducted pro-bono legal work for Anita Hill during the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings.

Early last week conservatives vowed to block Sherman’s confirmation as the State Department’s undersecretary for political affairs. That was until Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA) got involved. By Thursday, she was confirmed by unanimous consent.

Isakson’s business, Northside Realty, employed Sherman’s mother, who died in 2005, and the senator has known Wendy Sherman personally for 30 years. Some of Isakson’s conservative colleagues withdrew their objections to the nomination at his urging.

Isakson spokeswoman Laura Culbertson told the Heritage Foundation that the Senator had “vouch[ed] for the character of Wendy Sherman” in conversations with colleagues, and that he felt it was important to “have [State’s] full leadership team on hand in New York to oppose the Palestinian effort to seek unilateral recognition of statehood during the meeting of the U.N. General Assembly.”

Isakson’s colleagues were satisfied, apparently. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK), who voted against Sherman in committee,*said on the Senate floor that he was dropping his opposition in light of Isakson’s assurance that “she is qualified for the position and will do a great job.”

Senate conservatives had reason to be concerned about Sherman. After working for Emily’s List and at a law firm with close ties to prominent Senate liberals such as the late Ted Kennedy (D-MA) and Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Sherman was tapped to be the chief executive of the Fannie Mae Foundation, the non-profit arm of the controversial government-backed mortgage giant. She served in that position from 1996 to 1997.

It was just then that Fannie Mae chief James Johnson was beginning to use the foundation as a vehicle for the company’s political muscle, the New York Times’ Gretchen Morgenson and Joshua Rosner reported in*Reckless Endangerment, their 2011 book on the roots of the financial crisis:
One of the most powerful instruments Johnson used in his protection strategy was the Fannie Mae Foundation, a charitable organization founded in 1979. Under Johnson, however, the foundation become a powerhouse in charitable giving that targeted organizations associated with favored politicians or located in their areas.

The foundation took off after 1995, when Johnson put $350 million of Fannie Mae shares into it. As the company’s stock rose, so did the amount of money the entity had to dispense. By 1998, the Fannie Mae Foundation was handing out $20 million a year.

Fannie used that money to “promote homeownership” – a goal that ended catastrophically in the 2008 housing and financial crises.

After her time at the Foundation, Sherman took a position at the State Department, where she was President Clinton’s North Korea policy coordinator. In that role, she helped craft a policy that rewarded Pyongyang with food and fuel for making very minor and largely ineffective concessions on the nuclear front. The Washington Post’s Jennifer Rubin reported in June:
Journalist Claudia Rosett, who covered foreign policy at the time, tells me, “Among panderers to the North Korean regime, she earned herself a place in the group portrait that used to hang on the wall of the KEDO [a joint venture by the United States, China and North and South Korea] consortium office in New York which was in charge of giving Kim Jong Il free food, fuel and nuclear reactors.” She continued, “Wendy Sherman was part of the Clinton team that brought us some of the worst appeasement of N Korea, at the point where it was clear that North Korea was cheating on the already grossly misconceived Carter-Clinton 1994 Agreed Framework nuclear freeze deal.” Rosett and other analysts agree that the ill-fated agreement actually helped Kim maintain his grip on power as he helped Syria build a nuclear plant, starved and brutalized his own people and lobbed missiles.

Writing of the March 1999 agreement that earned Sherman such scorn, former Secretary of State James Baker proclaimed: “the Clinton Administration’s approach to North Korea – a policy of appeasement – continues to fail.” This was a policy in which Sherman was “centrally involved,” according to former U.N. ambassador John Bolton.

After leaving the State Department, Sherman worked for former Secretary Madeline Albright’s lobbying firm. Now the revolving door has spun once again. With a Democrat back in the Oval Office, Sherman is back at State.

And once again, she knew the right people. In Washington, sometimes that’s all you need.

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