US President Donald Trump hugs his daughter and senior advisor Ivanka Trump, who attended a party at billionaire Jeff Bezos' home in January where Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell was also present
Washington (AFP) - While discussing the US economic outlook, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell on Tuesday had to fend off accusations he may be feeling undue influence from billionaire Jeff Bezos and Ivanka Trump.
“Is this you, Mr Powell?” US Representative Katie Porter of California asked, while holding up a picture of the Fed chief in a black tie outside of the Washington, DC home of Bezos, founder of Amazon.
US President Donald Trump’s daughter and adviser Ivanka also attended the swank party with her husband Jared Kushner, himself a White House adviser.
“Would you say that someone like Jeff Bezos, one of the richest men in the world, could benefit from having influence over the Fed’s decisions?” Porter asked.
“Can you imagine how attending a lavish party at Jeff Bezos’ $23 million home, along with Jared and Ivanka and the CEO of JPMorgan Chase Jamie Dimon, might give off the sense to the public that you are not in fact immune from external pressures?”
“I would certainly hope not,” Powell responded.
Powell was testifying before the House Financial Services Committee, a twice-a-year requirement, and mostly answered questions about the economy, jobs, the minimum wage and minutiae of banking regulation.
Federal Reserve Board Chairman Jerome Powell said he did not speak to Bezos, Ivanka Trump or her husband Jared Kushner at a recent party
But he acknowledged attending an after party thrown by Bezos following the exclusive Alfalfa Club dinner, an old-boy Washington tradition that itself occasionally provokes fireworks.
Celebrity chef and humanitarian Jose Andres was barred from a 2018 after party that Ivanka Trump was attending, which he said was due to his frictions with the administration over immigration policy.
Powell, a member of the Alfalfa Club, said he did not speak to Bezos, Kushner or Ivanka Trump at the party, but Porter indicated his attendance alone could create the impression of undue influence.
“I would just suggest that attendance at this kind of event with these kinds of people is inconsistent” with the position that the Fed is independent and not subject to pressure, she said.
“There are a lot of people out there who would love the opportunity to weigh in on Fed decisions.”