September 24th, 2008
06:17 PM ET
10 years ago

Fact check: Obama has advisers from Fannie Mae?

The Statement
In a September 19 speech in Green Bay, Wisconsin, and in campaign ads since then, Republican presidential nominee Sen. John McCain has tied Democratic rival Sen. Barack Obama to the bankrupt mortgage giant Fannie Mae, saying "somehow its former CEO had managed to gain my opponent's trust to the point that Senator Obama actually put him in charge of his vice presidential search."

He added that "[a]nother CEO for Fannie Mae, Mr. Raines, has been advising Senator Obama on housing policy even after Fannie Mae was found to have committed quote 'extensive financial fraud' under his leadership."

Learn the facts

The Facts
Former Fannie CEO Jim Johnson headed up Obama's vice-presidential search - an unpaid role he played for Democrats Walter Mondale in 1984 and John Kerry in 2004. He stepped down in June - about a week after the campaign announced his appointment - after reports that he received $7 million in mortgage loans at below-market rates from Countrywide, a company Obama criticized for its role in the financial meltdown. Johnson was at Fannie Mae from 1990 to 1998, working his way up to chairman and earning up to $21 million a year, according to reports.

On June 10, a day before Johnson stepped down, Obama said Johnson had a limited role and that "anybody who is tangentially related to our campaign" could have relationships that the campaign doesn't know about. "These aren't folks who are working for me," he said. "They are not people, you know, who I have assigned to a job in the future administration. And ultimately, my assumption is that this is a discrete task that they are going to be performing for me in the next two months."

The McCain campaign cites a July 16 Washington Post article that says another former Fannie Mae CEO, Franklin Raines, had "taken calls from Barack Obama's presidential campaign seeking his advice on mortgage and housing policy matters." In a September 20 speech in Daytona Beach, Florida, Obama called Raines "a Fannie Mae guy I've talked to for maybe five minutes in my life" and in a statement released by the campaign, Raines says he is "not an advisor to Barack Obama, nor have I provided his campaign with advice on housing or economic matters." In a follow-up to the Post article, the reporter who wrote the piece said Raines told her he took "a couple of calls" from someone at the campaign and discussed "general housing, economy issues."

Obama's campaign also has gone after McCain over campaign manager Rick Davis, who has worked as an influential lobbyist and whose firm reportedly worked for Freddie Mac, another major mortgage firm that was taken over by the government.

The Verdicts: True, for Johnson. Misleading, for Raines. While Johnson stepped
down after a short time on the job, Obama did appoint him to head his vice
president search, as McCain says. Raines, however, appears to have had limited
contact, at most, with the campaign.

Filed under: Fact Check
soundoff (164 Responses)
  1. Pat

    Democrats...a party divided: It's good to see that you prefer scripted soundbites to thoughtful responses. LOL

    If McCain wins, I just hope you're right about him....for my sake.

    September 24, 2008 08:13 pm at 8:13 pm |
  2. maynard hopkins wi

    Check the rest of his record. Check with the N.R.A. and find out how he is rated with the N,R.A.. Check and see how he got fellow opponents kicked off the ballot for the seat he was running for in illinois

    this man cannot be trusted do your home work, it is all public record

    September 24, 2008 08:13 pm at 8:13 pm |
  3. Independent in NC

    Come on CNN, fact check the Obama-Penny Pritzker tie. He's ostensibly put one of the people responsible for the Superior Bank collapse and a plethora of subprime loans in charge of his finance. Nothing on that? Can I entice you by noting that she's also an heiress and you could do a house/car count?

    September 24, 2008 08:16 pm at 8:16 pm |
  4. Independent FL voter

    OK, so John McCain lied in yet another ad ... too bad all the other news outlets debunked this one first, CNN. Here's a thought, instead of covering McCain's false ads, why don't you wait and cover one that actually turns out to be true? That'd be news ...

    September 24, 2008 08:21 pm at 8:21 pm |
  5. Shannon

    I love how you all condemn McCain while ignoring the fact that Obama took money from Fannie Mae, he was only topped by one other senator. Obama is a fraud!

    September 24, 2008 08:24 pm at 8:24 pm |
  6. SM

    If McCain doesn't want to be the Republican candidate anymore, maybe they should find another one...and make it snappy!

    September 24, 2008 08:24 pm at 8:24 pm |
  7. Jim Hegedus

    The McCain supports comments above, keep bring up the false statement that Obama has no record of positive actions. This is nonsense, however if these blind fools will look at McCains record and false statements – TALK ABOUT A FLIP FLOPPER – let them vote for him. If he get elected they will get what they deserve. More jobs going overseas, more taxes (not his health plan HE WILL TAX YOUR HEALTH BENEFITS PROVIDED BY YOUR EMPLOYER – that should help you a lot. I'm afraid this country will continue to decline as long as there are voters that won't face reality. Is thera a hidden racial bias here? Otherwise why vote for a candidate who will work for the wealthy rather than us?

    September 24, 2008 08:25 pm at 8:25 pm |
  8. Bill Peterson

    Okay, so McCain puts the campaign on hold and pushes the first Presidential debate off – canceling the VP Debate. Does this not keep Sarah Palin off the hotseat with Biden, or am I missing something?

    Maybe its not so much the financial meltdown he doesn't want to discuss on stage with Obama (a Harvard Law graduate and Constitutional Law Scholar), but seeing his VP ripped to shreds in front of a nation-wide audience. Better to keep her for Photo-Ops with friendly dignitaries who praise her good looks – but avoid discussing issues.

    The old McCain might have been a reformer. The new "improved" version is simply a politician, running to keep ahead of his lies.

    September 24, 2008 08:27 pm at 8:27 pm |
  9. jimmy

    deb: please ask Obama about his connections with Ayers, Rezko,
    wright , farrakhan etc.
    when we go to Washington , D.C. next year , we hope to see Cindy Mccain in the White House.. There is nothing wrong with Michelle
    Obama , But we just want a more attractive and charming First Lady greeting foreign visitor and americans in the White House who are proud of our country.

    September 24, 2008 08:31 pm at 8:31 pm |
  10. DClaire

    Sorry It is People First for People make a Country! and it starts in the community, local neighbor to neighbor.

    Current McCain no debate, back to Washington with hisi comfort of friends

    Obama is smart ,strong and stays the course this is a person who sincerely cares about this Countrty and We The People...

    Obama 2008


    September 24, 2008 08:34 pm at 8:34 pm |
  11. MCcain't handle it

    Mccain't may not be personally resposible for our economic crisis because he doesn't even realize that we are in one. And he surely has done nothing to help keep us out of one. Our economy cannot handle another republican in office. KEEP GOIN STRONG OBAMA!!!!!!!

    September 24, 2008 08:34 pm at 8:34 pm |
  12. mathan

    Both are senators still and have the responsibility to fullfill their duties as senators to the people. McCain realises this. Obama is already the president of the USA. He does believe he is owed the presidency. If he loses on NOv 4th his lawyers will be suing in federal court for affirmative action. As his loss was due to under representation of blacks in the states he lost and should be awarded one electoral vote for each state he lost. Wake up fellow citizens read Obamas lips. "I dont intend to loose this election at any cost."

    September 24, 2008 08:39 pm at 8:39 pm |
  13. The Nightingale Sings in Berkley Square

    Pelosi, Reid and Obama. reminds you of Larry, Curly and Moe of the Three Stooges fame. And put Biden in there as well and you can see the tragedy for the American People.

    Both Obama and Biden voted at least twice for the famous bridge to no where. Then Biden told Katie Couric that FDR appeared on TV during the great depression of 1929. Funny since Hoover was president and TV didn't come into use by the presidents until much much later.

    What stooges the Democratic leadership selected. Enny, Menny, Minney, Moe or Larry, Curly and Moe with Biden.

    September 24, 2008 08:40 pm at 8:40 pm |
  14. read this then comment

    an earlier fact check on cnn about who got more contributions from fannie mae:
    Partially true, but misleading. Donations don't come from companies. A list of employee contributions puts Obama second, but a different list including lobbyists and directors shows McCain getting more

    September 24, 2008 08:40 pm at 8:40 pm |
  15. WheresMyRepParty

    Johnson was at Fannie from 1990 to 1998. While there have been concerns with Fannie and Freddie for a while now, Johnson was CEO before Enron, Worldcom, etc. This should be vetted, but you will find these relationships with any politician, including McCain.

    The real question should be about lobbyists and special interests. Was Johnson in a position to lobby Obama for anything?

    September 24, 2008 08:51 pm at 8:51 pm |
  16. nelda

    McCain is a lair and enjoys a good laugh at the expense of the American people. He honestly believes we are stupid.

    McCain is lethal to America and we need change!

    McCain= Bush We can't afford 8 more years of the same crap!

    September 24, 2008 08:58 pm at 8:58 pm |
  17. Mack in OH

    I always wondered what kind of idiots can stand to watch CNN. After reading these comments, now I know. With Biden talking about FDR going on TV in 1929 and Obama never knowing which of the "57 states" he's in, who are the clowns? Even if Obama had 400 economic advisors I don't think he could find them all. The probably all speak Russian or Chinese anyways.

    September 24, 2008 09:00 pm at 9:00 pm |
  18. no more Black eyes

    jimmy September 24th, 2008 8:31 pm ET

    deb: please ask Obama about his connections with Ayers, Rezko,
    wright , farrakhan etc.
    when we go to Washington , D.C. next year , we hope to see Cindy Mccain in the White House.. There is nothing wrong with Michelle
    Obama , But we just want a more attractive and charming First Lady greeting foreign visitor and americans in the White House who are proud of our country
    HAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHHA....jimmy Cindy McCain is a mistress who married DOWN

    September 24, 2008 09:00 pm at 9:00 pm |
  19. Zach

    How in the world can you say the Raines claim was merely "misleading"? It is a flat out lie! That Washington Post article has been discredited and it is widely reported – with a hint of effort you could have known this – that Raines at MOST had a 15 minute conversation with an aide to the Obama campaign, which HE initiated to try to arrange a meeting with Obama. That is IT! You need to fact check YOUR fact check! Initially I had a lot of hope that you would turn this into something great. Now I think you're reverting back to the same old lazy non-journalism that got us into the Iraq war. I expect better from you, CNN.

    September 24, 2008 09:00 pm at 9:00 pm |
  20. Idaho Independent

    Factcheck should note that service between 1990 and 1998 predates the mortgage crisis. Like saying Abe Lincoln was responsible for Grant's troubles as president.

    September 24, 2008 09:00 pm at 9:00 pm |
  21. Never obama

    Fact check is nothing more than another obama whxxx.

    September 24, 2008 09:02 pm at 9:02 pm |
  22. Tom Jefferson from Monticello, Va.

    Jimmy, do you have any fresh slander points? These are getting VERY stale and no none is buying your load of fertilizer.

    September 24, 2008 09:04 pm at 9:04 pm |
  23. B Dog

    Anyone still defending these two corrupt, and incompetent parties needs to wake up. They both got us into this mess, and don't deserve to lead this nation any longer. It is no longer the lesser of two evils, they are just evil. This AMERICAN will vote none of the above, Ron Paul, or Bob Barr for President, and Libertarian for the rest of the ticket. I am all done with these two parties. I don't care if Obama, who is clearly a socialist, is elected because I am going on strike. I refuse to participate in a punitive socialist society and will make every effort possible to avoid contributing to the leaches that make this country suck.

    September 24, 2008 09:06 pm at 9:06 pm |
  24. John

    "We need someone who will do more than vote present 130 times!"

    We need someone who will miss the vote 407 times!

    110th congress
    John McCain: 407 votes missed (63.8%), 231 votes cast
    Barack Obama: 290 votes missed (45.5%), 348 votes cast
    Hillary Clinton: 206 votes missed (32.3%), 432 votes cast
    J. Biden: 193 votes missed (30.3%), 445 votes cast

    September 24, 2008 09:07 pm at 9:07 pm |
  25. jules

    Hey, where's the big story about how Obama and Biden voted for funding the "Bridge to Nowhere" every time it came up for a vote? Here you have two guys laughing and making jokes about Palin because she did change her mind on the bridge and decide that it wasn't worth after she became more educated on it but these two yahoos kept voting for funding the bridge. Who's the idiot here? Why isn't the media making this one of the top stories of the week? Oh, that's right – they are Obama zombies, under his spell and being totally slanted. Freedom of the press has now become a joke!
    McCain is absolutely doing the right thing by going to Washington and skipping a silly debate because he is concerned about this bailout situation. It is, without a doubt, the biggest issue to face a President and Congress since the Depression. Obama is too busy rehearsing for his big debut debate and doesn't want to bothered by this issue. Obama will just say he's "present" again and let someone else make the big decisions. Obama, more of the same nothingness. McCain, willing to stand up for what is right! Go McCain/Palin!!!

    September 24, 2008 09:18 pm at 9:18 pm |
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