UTSanDiego.com

$700 Billion Man Jumps Into Politics

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Neel Kashkari, the man who oversaw the government bailout program at the height of the crisis, is running for public office in California.

Kashkari said late Wednesday he is stepping down as managing director and head of global equities at PIMCO to pursue his "passion for public service."

The Republican executive described himself as an "experienced, pragmatic, effective leader" who has worked with both Democrats and Republicans to tackle serious economic challenges.

Kashkari, a former Goldman Sachs(GS) employee, first joined public service in 2006, working as a senior advisor to former boss and then-Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson.

He shot to fame in 2008, when he was appointed assistant secretary of the Treasury, where he spearheaded the government's bailout program. Kashkari, then 35, was nicknamed the $700 billion man for his role in rescuing big banks from financial armageddon.

Kashkari left the Treasury in 2009 to join PIMCO.

In an interview with The Wall Streert Journal, Kashkari said the government's TARP program, while "very unpopular" was "the best example we have in modern history of Democrats and Republicans coming together to do something controversial but absolutely necessary and absolutely successful."

Kashkari might face an uphill battle in democratic California, but told the Journal that he was "no ordinary Californian Republican," emphasizing his middle-class upbringing as the son of Indian immigrants.

Kashkari has launched a website in which he talks about the need to address California's problems. "I share Californians' optimism that with the right leadership, we can help every child get a good education, we can create a vibrant economy so every Californian has a good job and we can do this while living within our means," he said. "Unfortunately today California 8th graders rank 49th in student achievement while a devastating 21% of Californians are either out of work or underemployed. And Sacramento's budget ignores literally hundreds of billions of dollars of liabilities."

"After decades of benign neglect, I believe it is our duty to finally have an honest discussion about these issues and take bold action to help all Californians succeed," he said.

-- Written by Shanthi Bharatwaj in New York.