orking with George Bush was "absolutely terrific", and haggling with
Federal Reserve Board Chair Allan Greenspan was "great fun," Wendy Lee
Gramm reminisces of her days of White House debriefings and Capitol Hill
financial policy meetings while chairing the Commodity Futures Trading
Today the Corean-American travels the lecture circuit -- at $4,500 per
speech -- and is setting up a political think tank, tentatively named The Center
for Regulatory Studies. She also sits on 11 boards, including those of State
Farm Insurance Companies and the International Republican Institute.
She may be married to Phil Gramm, the powerful Republican senator
from Texas and a top-ranked Republican candidate for the 1996 presidential
race, but Gramm, 49, hardly leads the life of a traditional Washington wife.
In Washington circles, wives have typically suppressed their ambitions and
buttressed those of their husbands. With cheery smiles and sparkling eyes,
they sip cocktails with deep-pocketed campaign donors, throw dinners for
volunteers and shine at star-studded fund-raisers.
Gramm has spent her Washington years mustering political muscle. She
was appointed CFTC chairwoman by Ronald Reagan in 1988 and reappointed
by President Bush in 1990. When Bill Clinton was elected President, she
resigned from the 600-member regulatory agency.
"I felt Clinton should be able to build his own team," she says.
The CFTC supervises all U.S. commodities trading, just as the Securities
and Exchange Commission oversees the stock market. It operates as an
enormous city council and police force, creating and enforcing the terms for
fair commodities trade. It scrutinizes the trade in food, precious metals and
foreign currency by the 393 U.S. brokerage houses and the 70,000 people
they employ. It guarantees that frozen orange juice brokers in Chicago never
undercut pork belly prices in New York. It thwarts attempts by highhanded
Detroit traders to artificially inflate soybean prices in Los Angeles.
In one instance, CFTC investigators broke up a ring of rogue investors
from Switzerland, England, Bermuda and the U.S. conspiring to raise U.S.
silver prices from $11 to $50 an ounce.
As CFTC head, Gramm managed one of the world's richest financial
markets and moved in Washington's power circles. Besides meeting
regularly with Bush and Greenspan, she worked with heads of the Treasury
Department, State Department and congressional committees.
In this world of graying, balding and sagging White males, Gramm was
the sole Asian and frequently the only woman.
"But I don't think about things like that," says Gramm in a slip-slide
Texas drawl adopted after nine years of teaching economics at Texas A&M.
"Basically, I was like any person in a position of authority. I had to be
prepared and knowledgeable and hard working. And in all the policy debate
I got involved in, I always was on the right side of the issue."
That's what got Gramm hitched to the Reagan-Bush boy's club and
earned her clout in pre-Clinton Washington, D.C.