The problem with Castro as a subject to write about is that he's kind of a dull Obama-like figure who has been polished to be a figurehead. In the hands of a master of malice like Zev Chafets, Castro is a pretty funny story, but you pretty much have to be an iSteve reader to get the joke.
BY BYRON YORK | MAY 18, 2014 | 12:00 AM
San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro is widely referred to as a "rising star" in Democratic politics. There's even talk the Mexican-American Castro could earn the vice-presidential spot on the 2016 Democratic ticket in an effort to further strengthen the party's bonds with Hispanic voters. And now, it appears Castro's national profile is about to rise with word that President Obama plans to nominate him to be Secretary of Housing and Urban Development.
If Castro is tapped for the job, his Senate confirmation hearings will likely shine a spotlight both on his role in San Antonio's government and his way of making a living.
San Antonio, the second-largest city in Texas and seventh-largest in the nation, has a council-manager-weak mayor form of government. The manager runs the city.
The office of mayor carries with it no executive authority. ... "The mayor's job pays $20 a meeting plus a one-time $2,000 fee, so I basically make $4,000 a year," Castro told San Antonio television station KENS last year.
So how does Castro, 39 years old, with a wife and a child, make a living? First, his wife, Erica, an elementary school teacher, makes about $55,000 a year. But lately, it appears Castro's real livelihood comes from being Julian Castro -- making speeches, surfing on his fame after a well-received keynote address at the 2012 Democratic National Convention, and writing a book about himself.
San Antonio Express-News columnist Brian Chasnoff recently reported that Castro made more than $200,000 in 2013. The bulk of that, Chasnoff noted, was a $127,500 advance for the memoir that Castro is writing.
In contrast, after Obama gave the same speech at the Democratic convention eight years before, he received a $1.9 million advance for what became The Audacity of Hope. In general, blacks are just a lot more interesting to the white reading public than Mexicans are.
More came from the speaking fees that were a product of Castro's post-convention visibility: $12,750 for one speech, $16,250 for another, $8,500 for another, and so on.
These are not particularly large amounts of money -- Castromania appears to be a long ways from liftoff. (It also doesn't help that Castro doesn't speak much Spanish, so that market is out.)
That's how Castro supports himself and his family now. But the seed money for Castro's time in the mayor's office -- he was first elected in 2009 -- was a controversial seven-figure "referral fee" that Castro, a Harvard-educated lawyer, received from a well-connected trial lawyer and Democratic donor in a personal injury lawsuit in which Castro may or may not have played a major role.
The case stemmed from a 2006 drunk driving accident in which three people were killed. ... One of the victims, a man who lost his mother, wife, and son in the crash, knew Castro and chose Castro's small firm to represent him in a suit against the oilfield services company. Castro then referred the case to a much larger firm, headed by Mikal Watts, a prominent personal injury lawyer and Democratic contributor. Watts won the case, and a big award, and Castro was paid a seven-figure "referral fee" for bringing the suit to Watts' firm. ...
Julian's identical twin Joaquin shared in the tip.
Watts is a Texas-sized contingency fee lawyer. A cornerback named Mikal Watts would be black, but a major Democratic donor named Mikal Watts is white.
So, basically, the Castro Twins are the creation of the Bob Odenkirk-like Mikal Watts.
Castro's lawsuit payday has attracted some scrutiny. In 2009, the Express-News ran a piece (not available on the Web) headlined, "Whispers about Castro's referral of case grow louder." But Castro has remained mostly silent about the financial details of the matter. Still, the bottom line is that it appears the referral fee and Castro's connection to Watts are major parts of the foundation of Castro's political career so far. If Castro is nominated to be HUD secretary, the senators charged with his confirmation will undoubtedly want to know more about them.
Why is Obama appointing so many former employees of one Wall St. bank?
By SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN April 29, 2014
Today, I cast my vote on the Senate Banking Committee for Stanley Fischer to serve in the No. 2 position at the U.S. Federal Reserve. I asked Fischer tough questions – in person, at his nomination hearing, and in writing – and I have been impressed with the depth of his knowledge and experience.
But I cast my vote reluctantly because of my growing frustration over the concentration of people with ties to the megabank Citigroup in senior government positions.
In recent years, Wall Street institutions have exerted extraordinary influence in Washington’s corridors of power, but Citi has risen above the others in exercising a tight grip over the Democratic Party’s economic policymaking apparatus. Fischer, after all, is just the latest Citi alumnus to be tapped for a high-level government position. Starting with Robert Rubin – a former Citi CEO – three of the last four Treasury secretaries under Democratic presidents have had Citigroup affiliations before or after their Treasury service. (The fourth [Timothy Geithner] was offered, but declined, Citigroup’s CEO position.) Directors of the National Economic Council and Office of Management and Budget, as well as our current U.S. trade representative, also have had strong ties to Citigroup.