With the financial sector in turmoil today, the media and the politicians have started throwing around blame with the same recklessness as lenders threw around credit to create the problem. Politically, the pertinent question is this: Which candidate foresaw the credit crisis and tried to do something about it? As it turns out, John McCain did — and partnered with three other Senate Republicans to reform the government’s involvement in lending three years ago, after an attempt by the Bush administration died in Congress two years earlier. McCain spoke forcefully on May 25, 2006, on behalf of the Federal Housing Enterprise Regulatory Reform Act of 2005 (via Beltway Snark):
Mr. President, this week Fannie Mae’s regulator reported that the company’s quarterly reports of profit growth over the past few years were “illusions deliberately and systematically created” by the company’s senior management, which resulted in a $10.6 billion accounting scandal.
The Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight’s report goes on to say that Fannie Mae employees deliberately and intentionally manipulated financial reports to hit earnings targets in order to trigger bonuses for senior executives. In the case of Franklin Raines, Fannie Mae’s former chief executive officer, OFHEO’s report shows that over half of Mr. Raines’ compensation for the 6 years through 2003 was directly tied to meeting earnings targets. The report of financial misconduct at Fannie Mae echoes the deeply troubling $5 billion profit restatement at Freddie Mac.
The OFHEO report also states that Fannie Mae used its political power to lobby Congress in an effort to interfere with the regulator’s examination of the company’s accounting problems. This report comes some weeks after Freddie Mac paid a record $3.8 million fine in a settlement with the Federal Election Commission and restated lobbying disclosure reports from 2004 to 2005. These are entities that have demonstrated over and over again that they are deeply in need of reform.
For years I have been concerned about the regulatory structure that governs Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac–known as Government-sponsored entities or GSEs–and the sheer magnitude of these companies and the role they play in the housing market. OFHEO’s report this week does nothing to ease these concerns. In fact, the report does quite the contrary. OFHEO’s report solidifies my view that the GSEs need to be reformed without delay.
I join as a cosponsor of the Federal Housing Enterprise Regulatory Reform Act of 2005, S. 190, to underscore my support for quick passage of GSE regulatory reform legislation. If Congress does not act, 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.
I urge my colleagues to support swift action on this GSE reform legislation.
In this speech, McCain managed to predict the entire collapse that has forced the government to eat Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, along with Bear Stearns and AIG. He hammers the falsification of financial records to benefit executives, including Franklin Raines and Jim Johnson, both of whom have worked as advisers to Barack Obama this year. McCain also noted the power of their lobbying efforts to forestall oversight over their business practices. He finishes with the warning that proved all too prescient over the past few days and weeks.
What was this bill? The act would have done the following:
(1) in lieu of the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), an independent Federal Housing Enterprise Regulatory Agency which shall have authority over the Federal Home Loan Bank Finance Corporation, the Federal Home Loan Banks, the Federal National Mortgage Association (Fannie Mae), and the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation (Freddie Mac); and (2) the Federal Housing Enterprise Board.
Sets forth operating, administrative, and regulatory provisions of the Agency, including provisions respecting: (1) assessment authority; (2) authority to limit nonmission-related assets; (3) minimum and critical capital levels; (4) risk-based capital test; (5) capital classifications and undercapitalized enterprises; (6) enforcement actions and penalties; (7) golden parachutes; and (8) reporting.
It never made it out of committee. Chris Dodd, then the ranking member of the Banking Committee and now its chair, was in the middle of receiving preferential loan treatment from Countrywide Mortgage, one of the companies gaming the system in the credit crisis. Meanwhile, Barack Obama took hundreds of thousands of dollars from the lobbyists McCain mentions in this speech, making him the #2 recipient of Fannie/Freddie money:
HEATHER NAUERT: Barack Obama attacking John McCain once again on the economy and the market turmoil today. Our John Gibson has new information on the Democratic presidential nominee and the mortgage mess for us now. What have you got John?
JOHN GIBSON: Alright Heather. Lehman Brothers’ collapse is traced back to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the two big mortgage banks that got a federal bailout a few weeks ago. Freddie and Fannie used huge lobbying budgets and political contributions to keep regulators off their backs. A group called the center for responsive politics keeps track of which politicians get Fannie and Freddie political contributions. The top three U.S. Senators getting big Fannie and Freddie political bucks were democrats and number two is Senator Barack Obama.
Now, remember, he has only been in the Senate four years but still managed to grab the number two spot ahead of John Kerry, decades in the senate, and Chris Dodd who is chairman of the senate banking committee. Fannie and Freddie have been creations of the congressional democrats and the Clinton white house, designed to make mortgages available to more people, and as it turned out, some people who couldn’t afford them. Fannie and Freddie have also been places for big Washington democrats to go to work in the semi-private sector and pocket millions. The Clinton administration’s white house budget director Franklin Raines ran Fannie and collected 50 million dollars. Jamie Gurilli, Clinton Justice Apartment Official, worked for Fannie and took home 26 million dollars. Big Democrat Jim Johnson, recently on Obama’s VP search committee has hauled in millions from his Fannie Mae C.E.O. job.
Now remember, Obama’s ads and stump speeches attack McCain and republican policies for the current financial turmoil. It is demonstrably not Republican policy and worse, it appears the man attacking McCain, Senator Obama, was at the head of the line when the piggy’s lined up at the Fannie and Freddie trough for campaign bucks. Senator Barack Obama, number two on the Fannie/Freddie list of favored politicians after just four short years in the senate. Next time you see that ad, you might notice he fails to mention that part of the Fannie and Freddie problem. Heather.
NAUERT: Wow, that’s quite a report, begs the question — where is John McCain on this?
GIBSON: John McCain is a measly $20,000 after over 20 years so he really doesn’t even come close in the political contribution department.
Open Secrets has the list of Congressmen who have benefited from Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac largesse since 1989 (inclusive). Remarkably, after only serving less than four of those 20 years, Barack Obama has vaulted to the #2 position on Capitol Hill. Only Dodd outstripped him. He took more than six times the amount that McCain received in a 20-year period.
The record shows that McCain saw the problem coming and tried to get Congress to act. In 2005, both McCain and Obama served together in the Senate. Did Obama attempt to pass this reform, sign on as a co-sponsor, or even speak out in its favor? The record is tellingly blank.
Update: Below is a screen shot of Barack Obama’s statement on the American International Group (AIG) bailout:
“The fact that we have reached a point where the Federal Reserve felt it had to take this unprecedented step with the American Insurance Group is the final verdict on the failed economic philosophy of the last eight years. While we do not know all the details of this arrangement, the Fed must ensure that the plan protects the families that count on insurance. It should bolster our economy’s ability to create good-paying jobs and help working Americans pay their bills and save their money. It must not bail out the shareholders or management of AIG.
“This crisis serves as a stark reminder of the failures of crony capitalism and an economic philosophy that sees any regulation at all as unwise and unnecessary. It’s a philosophy that lets Washington lobbyists shred consumer protections and distort our economy so it works for the special interests instead of working people; a philosophy that says we should give more and more to those with the most and hope that prosperity trickles down to the rest.
“Instead, the pain has trickled up – from the struggles of Main Street all the way up to the crises on Wall Street.
“Despite his eleventh hour conversion to the language of reform, Senator McCain has subscribed to this philosophy for twenty-six years in Washington and the events of this week have rendered it a colossal failure. It is time for a new economic strategy, guided by the principle that America prospers when all Americans prosper, where common-sense rules of the road ensure that competition is fair, open, and honest. That is the strategy I will pursue as President, and I will bring the change we need to restore confidence in our financial markets and strength to our economy,” said Barack Obama.
As we have seen, McCain has been talking reform for three years, with no assist from Barack Obama. And McCain at least knows the correct name of the company that got its bailout last night from the federal government. Is Team Obama so incompetent that they couldn’t check the name before issuing the statement?