Wendy Lee Gramm distinguished herself as one of the most influential women on the front lines of Washington economic policy.




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 Commission (CFTC).

     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. PAGE 2

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Wendy Lee Gramm enjoyed unprecedented influence over the Bush Administration's economic policy while chairing the Commodities Futures Trading Corporation.

"In this world of graying, balding and sagging White males, Gramm was the sole Asian and frequently the only woman."

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