Chutzpah

To expand on a point Steve made a couple of days ago: It takes a certain amount of chutzpah for McCain to produce ads about Obama’s advisors having ties to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. One of the people McCain focusses on denies advising the Obama campaign; the story the McCain campaign based its ad on said only that he had “taken calls” from the Obama campaign, which is probably true of half the known universe. The other was Jim Johnson, who was asked to vet Vice Presidential candidates, but withdrew shortly afterwards, when questions arose about his ties to the financial industry.

Compare this to John McCain. He too picked a former lobbyist for Fannie and Freddie to vet his Vice Presidential candidates. In addition:

“At least 20 McCain fundraisers have lobbied on behalf of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, netting at least $12.3 million in fees over the past nine years.”

Plus:

“Among the companies’ past advocates are McCain’s campaign manager, Rick Davis, a longtime lobbyist; McCain’s confidant and adviser Charlie Black, whose firm worked for Freddie Mac for several years ending in 2005; and his deputy campaign finance chairman, Wayne Berman, a vice president of Ogilvy Worldwide, the advertising and marketing firm, and a former Fannie Mae lobbyist. Davis once was head of the Homeownership Alliance, a coalition of banks, mortgage lenders and other housing industry interests led by Fannie and Freddie to stave off proposed regulations or government fees.”

Davis’ record on this score is charming. USNews:

“McCain’s campaign manager Rick Davis was hired — after running McCain’s failed 2000 presidential campaign — to head up a group called the Homeownership Alliance, a Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac advocacy group, which the Wall Street Journal reported (in August 2000) had a website creed of being dedicated to: “exposing and defeating trends that would harm consumer access to the lowest-cost mortgage option.” The group viewed as threats those who are “seeking to spread unfounded fears about risks to the housing system.””

“Unfounded fears”. Gotta love it.

From the Times-Picayune (April 15, 2001, accessed via Lexis/Nexis):

“It shouldn’t have come as a surprise to anyone when the Homeownership Alliance announced its opposition last week to legislation by Rep. Richard Baker, R-Baton Rouge, to strengthen regulatory oversight for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the two giant agencies that buy home mortgages to expand homeownership opportunities. Rick Davis, president of the Homeownership Alliance, said that “we are concerned that Rep. Baker’s bill would break the first rule of any legislation related to housing — that is, to do no harm to the greatest housing system in the world.” He said the bill “presents the potential for a burdensome regulatory process that could lead to less consumer choice, reduced availability of financing and higher prices for home purchases and multi-family construction.” What Davis didn’t say is that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mae are both members of his alliance, which also includes the National Association of Home Builders and National Association of Real Estate Brokers. Baker, chairman of the House Capital Markets, Insurance and Government Sponsored Enterprises Subcommittee, has said that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have gotten so big, and have piled up so much debt, that more oversight is needed. If either of them failed, it could do major damage to the U.S. economy, he said.”

Which helps to explain this response from “William Maloni, Fannie Mae Senior Vice President for Government and Industry Relations (1983-2004)”:

“Yesterday, Senator John McCain released a television commercial attacking Barack Obama for allegedly receiving advice on the economy from former Fannie Mae CEO Franklin Raines. (…)

It is an interesting card for Senator McCain to play, given that his campaign manager, Rick Davis, was paid by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac several hundred thousand dollars early in this decade to head up an organization to lobby in their behalf called The Homeownership Alliance. …

I worked in government relations for Fannie Mae for more than 20 years, leading the group for most of those years. When I see photographs of Sen. McCain’s staff, it looks to me like the team of lobbyists who used to report to me. Senator McCain’s attack on Senator Obama is a cheap shot, and hypocritical.”

I do not think it ought to be a problem for a campaign to ask for advice from people who have some connection to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. A lot of those people know a lot about the mortgage industry, and having no contact whatsoever with them would probably be a bad idea. I do get concerned when a campaign has people who lobbied against better regulation in its most senior positions. There is only one campaign of which that is true, and it’s not Obama’s.