Freddie Mac arranged stealth lobbying in 2005
Associated Press ,Oct. 19, 2008
WASHINGTON — Freddie Mac secretly paid a Republican consulting firm $2 million to kill legislation that would have regulated and trimmed the mortgage finance giant and its sister company, Fannie Mae,
three years before the government took control to prevent their collapse.
In the cross hairs of the campaign carried out by DCI of Washington were Republican senators and a regulatory overhaul bill sponsored by Sen. Chuck Hagel,
R-Neb. DCI's chief executive is Doug Goodyear, whom John McCain's campaign later hired to manage the GOP convention
Freddie Mac's payments to DCI began shortly after the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee sent Hagel's bill to the then GOP-run Senate on July 28, 2005. All GOP members of the committee supported it; all Democrats opposed it.
In the midst of DCI's yearlong effort, Hagel and 25 other Republican senators pleaded unsuccessfully with Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., to allow a vote.
"If effective regulatory reform legislation ... is not enacted this year, American taxpayers will continue to be exposed to the enormous risk that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac pose to the housing market, the overall financial system and the economy as a whole," the senators wrote in a letter that proved prescient.
Unknown to the senators, DCI was undermining support for the bill in a campaign targeting 17 Republican senators
in 13 states, according to documents obtained by The Associated Press. The states and the senators targeted changed over time, but always stayed on the Republican side.
In the end, there was not enough Republican support for Hagel's bill to warrant bringing it up for a vote
because Democrats also opposed it and the votes of some would be needed for passage. The measure died at the end of the 109th Congress.
The Republican senators targeted by DCI began hearing from prominent constituents and financial contributors, all urging the defeat of Hagel's bill because it might harm the housing boom
. The effort generated newspaper articles and radio and TV appearances by participants who spoke out against the measure.
Inside Freddie Mac headquarters in 2005, the few dozen people who knew what DCI was doing referred to the initiative as "the stealth lobbying campaign," according to three people familiar with the drive.
They spoke only on condition of anonymity, saying they fear retaliation if their names were disclosed.
Freddie Mac executive Hollis McLoughlin oversaw DCI's drive
, according to the three people.
"Hollis's goal was not to have any Freddie Mac fingerprints on this project and DCI became the hidden hand behind the effort," one of the three people told the AP.
Before 2004, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were Democratic strongholds. After 2004, Republicans ran their political operations
. McLoughlin, who joined Freddie Mac in 2004 as chief of staff, has given $32,250 to Republican candidates over the years, including $2,800 to McCain, and has given none to Democrats, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan group that tracks money in politics.
On Friday night, Hagel's chief of staff, Mike Buttry, said Hagel's legislation "was the last best chance to bring greater oversight and tighter regulation to Freddie and Fannie, and they used every means they could to defeat Sen. Hagel's legislation every step of the way."
"It is outrageous that a congressionally chartered government-sponsored enterprise would lobby against a member of Congress's bill that would strengthen the regulation and oversight of that institution,
" Buttry said in a statement. "America has paid an extremely high price for the reckless, and possibly criminal, actions
of the leadership at Freddie and Fannie."
Nine of the 17 targeted Republican senators did not sign Hagel's letter:
Sens. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, Christopher "Kit" Bond and Jim Talent of Missouri, Conrad Burns of Montana, Mike DeWine of Ohio, Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, Olympia Snowe of Maine, Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island and George Allen of Virginia. Aside from the nine, 20 other Republican senators did not sign Hagel's letter.