This is the same Mr. Davis, that McCain falsely
claimed the records would show he was not receiving payment.
McCain Aide’s Firm Was Paid by Freddie Mac
By JACKIE CALMES and DAVID D. KIRKPATRICK
Published: September 23, 2008
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/09/24/us/po ... davis.html
WASHINGTON — One of the giant mortgage companies at the heart of the credit crisis paid $15,000 a month from the end of 2005 through last month to a firm owned by Senator John McCain’s campaign manager, according to two people with direct knowledge of the arrangement.
The disclosure undercuts a remark by Mr. McCain on Sunday night that the campaign manager, Rick Davis, had 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 two people said.
Mr. Davis took a leave from Davis Manafort for the presidential campaign, but as an equity holder continues to benefit from its income. No one at Davis Manafort other than Mr. Davis was involved in efforts on Freddie Mac’s behalf, the people familiar with the arrangement said.
A Freddie Mac spokeswoman said the company would not comment
Jill Hazelbaker, a spokeswoman for the McCain campaign, did not dispute the payments to Mr. Davis’s firm. But she said that Mr. Davis had stopped taking a salary from the firm by the end of 2006 and that his work did not affect Mr. McCain.
“Senator McCain’s positions on policy matters are based upon what he believes to be in the public interest,” Ms. Hazelbaker said in a written statement.
The disclosure comes at a time when Mr. McCain and his Democratic rival, Senator Barack Obama, are sparring over ties to lobbyists and special interests, seeking political advantage in a campaign being reshaped by the financial crisis and the plan to bail out investment firms.
Mr. McCain’s campaign has been attacking Mr. Obama for ties to former officials of the mortgage giants, both of which have a long history of cultivating Democratic and Republican allies alike to fend off efforts to restrict their activities. Mr. McCain has been running a television advertisement suggesting that Mr. Obama takes advice on housing issues from Franklin D. Raines, former chief executive of Fannie Mae, a contention denied by Mr. Raines and the Obama campaign.
Freddie Mac’s payments of roughly $500,000 to Davis Manafort, the people familiar with the arrangement said, began in late 2005, immediately after Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae disbanded an advocacy coalition that they had set up and hired Mr. Davis to run.
From 2000 to the end of 2005, Mr. Davis received nearly $2 million as president of the coalition, the Homeownership Alliance, which the companies created to help them oppose new regulations and protect their status as federally chartered companies with implicit government backing. That status let them borrow cheaply, helping to fuel rapid growth but also their increased purchases of the risky mortgage securities that proved to be their downfall.
The payments that Mr. Davis received for leading the Homeownership Alliance were reported in Monday’s issue of The New York Times. On Sunday, in an interview with CNBC and The Times, Mr. McCain responded to a question about that tie between Mr. Davis and the two mortgage companies by saying that he “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.”
Such assertions, along with McCain campaign television advertisements tying Mr. Obama to former Fannie Mae chiefs, have riled current and former officials of the two companies and provoked them to volunteer rebuttals.
The two people with direct knowledge of Freddie Mac’s post-2005 contract with Mr. Davis spoke on condition of anonymity. Four outside consultants — three Democrats and a Republican, also speaking on condition of anonymity — said the arrangement was widely known among people involved in Freddie Mac’s efforts to influence policy makers.
As president of the Homeownership Alliance, Mr. Davis received $30,000 to $35,000 a month. He, along with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, have characterized the alliance as a coalition of many housing industry and consumer groups to promote homeownership, but numerous current and former officials at both companies say the companies created and bankrolled the operation to combat efforts by competitors to rein in their business. The companies dissolved the group at the end of 2005 as part of cost-cutting in the wake of accounting scandals and, at Freddie Mac, a lobbying scandal that forced out its top Republican lobbyist.
On Monday, the McCain campaign attacked The Times for its account of those payments to Mr. Davis, saying the paper was “150 percent in the tank” for Mr. Obama. Mr. Davis said that he had worked not for the two companies but for the advocacy group, which included other organizations as well and, he said, was focused only on promoting homeownership.
After the Homeownership Alliance was dissolved, Mr. Davis asked to stay on a retainer, the people familiar with the deal said. Hollis McLoughlin, who was chief of staff to Richard F. Syron, Freddie Mac’s chief executive, arranged for a new contract with Davis Manafort at the reduced rate of $15,000 a month, they said.
Mr. Syron lost his job in the government takeover this month. Mr. McLoughlin, who through a spokeswoman declined to comment, was a chief of staff to Treasury Secretary Nicholas F. Brady in the administration of the first President Bush and has longstanding Republican ties.
Mr. Davis’s firm was hired as a consultant, not a lobbyist. Davis Manafort in recent years has filed federal lobbying reports for a number of companies, but not Freddie Mac or Fannie Mae.
The only thing that Freddie Mac officials could recall Mr. Davis’s doing for the company was speaking at the October 2006 pre-election forum, attended by midlevel and senior executives who contributed to Freddie PAC, the company’s political action committee.
An electronic invitation to those employees, read to The Times by a Freddie Mac official, said, “Please join us for political food for thought” with Paul Begala, a longtime Democratic consultant, “and Rick Davis, former 2000 presidential campaign manager and current adviser to Senator John McCain.” Mr. Begala, who was also a paid consultant to Freddie Mac until this month, confirmed that the event had taken place.
Several top McCain campaign officials have ties to either Freddie Mac or Fannie Mae. So do at least two McCain advisers outside the campaign. The lobbying firm of William E. Timmons Sr., the Republican whom Mr. McCain has enlisted to plan his transition to the White House, earned nearly $3 million from Freddie Mac from 2000 until its seizure, federal lobbying records show. Mr. Timmons is the founder of Timmons & Company, one of Washington’s best-known lobbying shops. The payments to the firm were first reported Tuesday by Bloomberg News.
And Mark Buse, chief of staff at Mr. McCain’s Senate office, is also a Freddie Mac alumnus. He and his former lobbying employer, ML Strategies, registered to lobby for the company in July 2003, and had received $460,000 by the time the association ended after 2004
Mr. McCain and his advisers have argued that whatever connections Mr. Davis and other campaign officials have had to the mortgage giants, the senator has been an advocate of reforming them.
And they have suggested that Mr. Obama is linked to the companies through donations from their employees and ties to former officials there. Those officials include James A. Johnson, another former chief executive of Fannie Mae, who headed Mr. Obama’s vice-presidential search team until stepping aside after coming under criticism for having received a mortgage on preferential terms from the Countrywide Financial Corporation.
Since his campaign for the Senate, in 2004, Mr. Obama has received about $126,000 in contributions from employees of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, while Mr. McCain has received about $22,000 over the last decade, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.