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McCain Adviser’s Firm On Freddie Mac Payroll Until Last Month

The magnitude of the hypocrisy of the McCain campaign’s attacks last week against Sen. Barack Obama for his campaign’s ties to Fannie Mae is only now coming to be fully appreciated. On top of The New York Times report Monday that revealed McCain campaign manager Rick Davis received nearly $2 million over five years as the president of the Homeownership Alliance — an organization set up by mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to lobby against increased government regulation –The Times reported late Tuesday that Davis’ lobbying firm, Davis Manafort, was STILL on the Freddie Mac payroll until the end of August, to the tune of $15,000 per month since late-2005.

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.

OK. Davis is a lobbyist — though, as The Times article notes, he has not taken a salary from Davis Manafort since late-2006, but continues to benefit as an equity holder — I get this. McCain campaign spokeswoman Jill Hazelbaker said that because Davis has foregone his salary, the work does not affect Sen. John McCain.

However, the problem is, what happens when the campaign is over? Presumably, Davis will rejoin his firm — and will he then pretend the firm hasn’t been on the payroll of whatever clients it has had while Davis was working for the campaign? That seems unlikely. Consider the following:

[The Times' sources] said they did not recall Mr. Davis’s doing much substantive work for [Freddie Mac] in return for the money, other than to speak to a political action committee of high-ranking employees in October 2006 on the approaching midterm Congressional elections. They said Mr. Davis’s firm, Davis Manafort, had been kept on the payroll because of his close ties to Mr. McCain, the Republican presidential nominee, who by 2006 was widely expected to run again for the White House.[emphasis added.]

Compare this with a passage from The Times’ article from Monday:

“The value that [Davis] brought to the relationship was the closeness to Senator McCain and the possibility that Senator McCain was going to run for president again, said Robert McCarson, a former spokesman for Fannie Mae, who said that while he worked there from 2000 to 2002, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac together paid Mr. Davis’s firm $35,000 a month. Mr. Davis “didn’t really do anything,” Mr. McCarson, a Democrat, said.

This raises a number of questions: Why do these companies believe maintaining close ties to Davis will be beneficial if McCain reaches the White House? The answer to that one is obvious. But is Davis using his relationship with McCain to attract clients? If so, is McCain aware of this? How can he not be? How does this square with McCain’s pledge to root out the special interests in Washington? If McCain wasn’t aware of Davis’ activities, why isn’t he outraged at these revelations? Most important, does the McCain campaign have any credibility at all?

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