Two reports tonight, one from the New York Times, and the other from Newsweek, contradict John McCain's statement this week that his campaign manager Rick Davis had no involvement with mortgage giant Freddie Mac for the last several years. The Times reports:
One of the giant mortgage companies at the heart of the credit crisis paid $15,000 a month to a firm owned by Senator John McCain's campaign manager from the end of 2005 through last month, according to two people with direct knowledge of the arrangement. The disclosure contradicts a statement Sunday night by Mr. McCain that the campaign manager, Rick Davis, had no involvement with the company for the last several years. Mr. Davis's firm received the payments from the company, Freddie Mac, until it was taken over by the government this month along with Fannie Mae, the other big mortgage lender whose deteriorating finances helped precipitate the cascading problems on Wall Street, the people said...
...On Sunday, in an interview with CNBC and The New York Times, Mr. McCain responded to a question about Mr. Davis's role in the advocacy group through 2005 by saying that his campaign manager "has had nothing to do with it since, and I'll be glad to have his record examined by anybody who wants to look at it."
Newsweek confirms the story:
Freddie Mac had previously paid an advocacy group run by Davis, called the Homeownership Alliance, $30,000 a month until the end 2005, when that group was dissolved. That relationship was the subject of a New York Times story Monday, which drew angry denunciations from the McCain campaign. McCain and his aides have vehemently objected to suggestions that Davis has ties to Freddie Mac-an especially sensitive issue given that the Republican presidential candidate has blamed "the lobbyists, politicians and bureaucrats" for the mortgage crisis that recently prompted the Bush administration to take over both Freddie Mac and its companion, Fannie Mae, and put it under federal conservatorship.
But neither the Times story -- nor the McCain campaign -- revealed that Davis's firm, the Washington, D.C. based lobbying firm Davis Manafort, continued to receive $15,000 a month from Freddie Mac until last month-long after the Homeownership Alliance had been terminated. The two sources, who requested anonymity discussing sensitive information, told Newsweek that Davis himself approached Freddie Mac in 2006 and asked for a new consulting arrangement that would allow his firm to continue to be paid. The arrangement was approved by Hollis McLoughlin, Freddie Mac's vice president for external relations, because "he [Davis] was John McCain's campaign manager and it was felt you couldn't say no," said one of the sources. [McLoughlin did not return phone calls].
Here's video of McCain from 60 Minutes on Sunday denying Davis had anything to do Freddie Mac:
In a sharply-worded statement released to the Huffington Post, David Donnelly, director of the watchdog group Campaign Money Watch, said: "John McCain's campaign manager and Freddie Mac essentially had a secret half a million dollar lay-a-way plan. For almost three years, they made secret, monthly payments of $15,000 to Rick Davis for apparently no other work than for him to provide special access to a future McCain White House in exchange. If McCain knew about this, his presidential campaign should be over. If he didn't know about it, he ought to fire Rick Davis immediately."
McCain's campaign has been attacking Obama over his own (rather tenuous) ties to the two former lending giants. GOP officials argued that despite whatever connections Davis or others had to the mortgage giants, McCain was a leading advocate for reforming them. However, the Times' reporting punches some holes in that claim:
In an interview Tuesday with conservative talk-radio host Neal Boortz, Mr. McCain said, "I remember warning at that time that Fannie and Freddie were out of control and that they needed to be reined in. And, frankly, I warned that this kind of thing could lead to serious problems. Now, in full disclosure, I didn't foresee something this huge, but certainly I saw the fundamentals there for serious problems when you have a quasi government agency acting the way they did."
When Mr. Boortz noted approvingly that Mr. McCain had co-sponsored a Senate bill to mandate new regulations, Mr. McCain said, "I remember it very well."
But a Freddie Mac official said Mr. McCain "never took on the role that some other Republicans did" to try to limit the companies. He named instead Senators Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, John Sununu of New Hampshire and Elizabeth Dole of North Carolina, all of whom were on the banking committee during recent years. "I remember working against a number of amendments and they were always introduced by Hagel and Sununu. John McCain was never anywhere to be found."
A check of the records for the legislation that Mr. Boortz mentioned shows that Senator Hagel was the original sponsor on Jan. 26, 2005, and Senators Sununu and Dole were co-sponsors then. Mr. McCain did not sign on as a co-sponsor for more than a year, on May 25, 2006.