Tish: Follow the money

Councilwoman Letitia James has found a Brooklyn angle on the nation’s populist outrage against AIG, calling on the British bank Barclays to not use the billions in taxpayer funds funneled to it by the insurance giant on its $400-million naming rights deal at the proposed Atlantic Yards arena.

James (D–Fort Greene) condemned any use of the federal bailout — officially, the Troubled Assets Relief Program — for anything other than bank activity that helps jump-start the economy.

“TARP money is for banks to start lending again, not for Barclays to polish its corporate identity,” said James.

“Staggering — that’s the only word for it,” she added.

Her comments came one day after AIG earned ire from politicians around the country for paying out $165 million in bonuses from its most-recent $30-billion bailout.

A spokesman for Barclays did not return a call for comment.

In issuing her statement, James sought to tap into growing outrage over AIG’s use of taxpayer bailout money for bonuses and to bail out some of its clients, including Barclays.

That outrage has been heard from the right — “Not so fast you greedy Wall Street bastards,” the New York Post put it — and the left, with MoveOn.org’s Web site leading with “We want our money back.”

James is the only local politician to link Barclays’ AIG bailout to the Atlantic Yards naming-rights deal, but earlier this year, two congressmen tried to pull Citigroup’s name off the new Mets stadium in Queens after that banking firm received its bailout.

“Citigroup is now dependent on the support of the federal government for its survival as an institution,” said the congressmen, Dennis Kucinich (D–Ohio) and Ted Poe (R–Texas).

“As such, we do not believe Citigroup ought to spend $400 million to name a stadium at the same time that they accept over $350 billion in taxpayer support.”

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