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."
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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.