McCain’s attempt to fix Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac in 2005; Update: Obama can’t get AIG right

posted at 11:45 am on September 17, 2008 by Ed Morrissey

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?

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Comment pages: 1 2 3 4

McCain needs to make a campaign ad out of this. It would bolster his position that he’s better on economic matters than Obama if he can convince the voters that he foresaw this mess and tried to do something about it.

thirteen28 on September 17, 2008 at 1:06 PM

Are you calling Obama a pig! For shame.

petunia on September 17, 2008 at 1:02 PM

For shame indeed!

What an insult to PIG’S!

FiveWays on September 17, 2008 at 1:11 PM

I wish Heather knew what “begs the question” meant. – Akzed on September 17, 2008 at 11:59 AM

I agree. Most people these days share the same ignorance of the proper usage of that term as she does. She should have said, “raises the question.”

“Begging the question” is an logical fallacy where the proposition to be proved is assumed implicitly or explicitly in one of the premises – a form of circular reasoning.

ManlyRash on September 17, 2008 at 1:11 PM

Say goodbye to your boy Drywall- he’s going down like a cheap intern. – FiveWays on September 17, 2008 at 12:07 PM

Heh. Going down faster than Larry Craig in a Minnesota men’s room.

ManlyRash on September 17, 2008 at 1:14 PM

Heh. Going down faster than Larry Craig in a Minnesota men’s room.

ManlyRash on September 17, 2008 at 1:14 PM

Now there’s an imagine I didn’t need to imagine! LOL!

TheBigOldDog on September 17, 2008 at 1:15 PM

McCain’s message is getting muddled. He needs to boil it down to just a few things. Here’s what he should say.

Obama: inexperienced and unaccomplished. The Obama celebrity phenomenon is built on thin air.

Foreign policy: Today’s challenges require a steady hand on the wheel. We should not give up our victory in Iraq, and we should not start new wars such as with Pakistan, like Obama would.

Domestic policy: McCain is a reformer who fights for accountability in government. The lack of accountability has caused the financial crisis and is the fault of the Democrat Congress for not passing McCain’s bill

McCain: A steady, straighttalking man of character, open to new ideas, and with optimism.

Only McCain can lead us through the difficult times ahead. Obama will take us deeper into the swamp.

indythinker on September 17, 2008 at 1:21 PM

Is Team Obama so incompetent that they couldn’t check the name before issuing the statement?

Is the MSM so worthless that they won’t report this in its entirety?
Barack had MUCH to do with the entire problem.
It started in 1992 with the Clintons, and the Dems have fed this monster for 16 years.
As for San Fran NAN? She’s saving the planet. HA!

shooter on September 17, 2008 at 1:31 PM

OK Obama, I will vote for you and take you on your word that your plan of socialism, more government and regulation will fix the problem IF………………….. you can name one single local, state, or federal bureacracy that isn’t filled with fraud, waste, and abuse? Just one……….

…….. and if the fraud, waste, and abuse is exposed can you please outline the procedure to file a grievence against the governmental bureacracy to hold those responsible accountable?

Seven Percent Solution on September 17, 2008 at 1:33 PM

It is time for a new economic strategy, guided by the principle that America prospers when all Americans prosper

And so America votes in it’s next socialist president. Been nice knowin’ ya. Since when is it the governments job to keep everyone from knowing any hardship? I see more and more why my parents despised FDR and LBJ. Thanks a lot Franklin creator of Social Security. Thanks a Lyndon creator of Medicare/Medicaid. You’ve sunk us. And now your best intentions will be soon bankrupting the country.

We’ve completely lost it. I know I didn’t live through the Great Depression, but a lot of people did. How many people just crawled under a rock and said “I give”. How many people after Katrina just said, “you know, I’ve lost everything, this is just too hard, I’m just gonna sit here on the curb and wait for death.”

I wrote a check this week for $7K to pay my 3rd quarter taxes. If everyone had to do this, rather than just have it mysteriously disappear from their paycheck, we’d have a real revolution. I just wanna puke.

rockhead on September 17, 2008 at 1:39 PM

So where is McCain’s ad on this? Tick, tock, Senator.

rrpjr on September 17, 2008 at 1:42 PM

Dr. Cwac-Cwac –

Louis Freeh only came on board in 2007 so I’m not going to point fingers at him.

Check out this 2002 Business Week interview with Jamie Gorelick.

It begins like this:

In the wake of the Enron disaster, Federal National Mortgage Assn. (Fannie Mae) and Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corp. (Freddie Mac), the federally chartered mortgage banks that experienced explosive growth in 2001, have come under increased scrutiny. Once again, Republicans in Congress are threatening to conduct an investigation into the activities of the two — No. 7 and No. 2, respectively, on this year’s BusinessWeek 50 list of top performers — some say in hopes of revoking the portions of the Fannie and Freddie charters that gives an implicit government guarantee to their borrowing.

The interview begins like this:

Q: Are you worried about attacks on the implied guarantee of the U.S. government that backs your credit?
A: From time to time, someone suggests changing our charter in some way that might affect the perceptions of our debt in the marketplace. The proposal that was on the table last year to do so got no co-sponsors. And given the importance of housing to the economy, the ballast we have provided to that sector, and the care that we take to operate in a safe and sound manner and consistent with our charter, I am not concerned that there would be any such legislation.

Q: What do you say to criticism that Fannie and Freddie control too large a portion of the mortgage market?
A: In terms of concentration, the largest banks have greater concentration than we do and are growing at a faster rate. The critical questions are whether we are managed safely, and would the kind of credit and interest rate risk that we manage be managed better elsewhere?

We believe we are managed safely. We are very pleased that Moody’s gave us an A-minus in the area of bank financial strength — without a reference to the government in any way. Fannie Mae is among the handful of top-quality institutions.

Also, we are very highly regulated. We have auditors. We have examiners here on premises every day. And we have consistently exceeded every standard that the examiners have set for us.

Keep up the good work, Jamie!

Buy Danish on September 17, 2008 at 1:48 PM

Can’t wait for the first debate – maybe McCain will break his own less-than-24-hour flip flop on AIG and flip flop on it again within hours. Or minutes.

Dave Rywall on September 17, 2008 at 1:56 PM

Hey folks,

Do you know why Fannie and Freddie formed PACs???

From August 2004
Freddie Mac Files to Create A Political Action Committee

Lawmakers banned soft-money contributions starting in 2003, prohibiting corporations from making large donations to political parties. That raised the importance of political action committees, which are one of the few remaining legal ways companies and labor unions can support congressional and presidential candidates.

Fannie created its PAC just two days after the Supreme Court upheld the ban on unregulated soft money in the McCain-Feingold campaign-finance law. PACs can only contribute a maximum of $5,000 to a candidate during a primary campaign and another $5,000 during the general election.

As much as we hate McCain-Feingold and its assault on free speech, Team McCain should run with this (on the reform angle) noting how much the PACs have given to His Holiness.

Dr.Cwac.Cwac on September 17, 2008 at 1:57 PM

McCain ad:

Play the most telling part of the 2005 speech. Is it on video? if not have someone read it with feeling…Cut to headlines about Freddie and Fannie and the rest…

Big headline about how much Obama recieved and redo the numbers so it just shows the last 4 years because that is MOST relevant… “OBAMA DOESN’T HAVE THE JUDGEMENT TO TELL WHEN HE IS BEING BOUGHT.”



petunia on September 17, 2008 at 1:59 PM

Move it along….MOVE it along…..nothing to see here….The Great Pelosi has already spoken….no fault of the Dems….move it along….Besides the fact they possibly saved the world today with their new energy plan…and Obama is too busy playing Movie star to do a real work…for that job he get paid for..what is it….oh yeah SENATOR…..he’s a senator…..right!So a little slack for ol punching bag Obama….cause, you know this is all Bush’s fault!

GOPGryphon on September 17, 2008 at 2:04 PM

Where are the Republicans on this?

The heavy hitters need to get out there and garner some MSM time to show the democrat corruption.

jukin on September 17, 2008 at 2:23 PM

Dave Rywall on September 17, 2008 at 12:04 PM

Say goodbye to your boy Drywall- he’s going down like a cheap intern.

FiveWays on September 17, 2008 at 12:07 PM

I wasn’t aware Canadians could vote.

BigWyo on September 17, 2008 at 2:26 PM

“McCain spoke forcefully on May 25, 2006, on behalf of the Federal Housing Enterprise Regulatory Reform Act of 2005…

Yeah that was that little thingie he worked out with Phil Gramm.

If I recall correctly that’s when he was for regulation that would benefit his lobbyist friends and benefactors…

Until… last month when he was against as much regulation as possible… until yesterday when he was for complete regulation to curb the “greedy fat cats on Wall Street”…?

Did anyone get that BS on tape at You Tube…?

J_Gocht on September 17, 2008 at 3:19 PM

Dr.Cwac.Cwac on September 17, 2008 at 1:57 PM

Fannie and Freddie did have PACs at one time but abolished them after getting heat from Rep. Richard Baker and other Republicans. Freddie later paid the biggest fine in FEC history for failing to report in-kind contributions of thousands of dollars for several fundraising dinners its chief lobbyist hosted at a swank DC restaurant. Both companies’ execs frequently hosted fundraisers at their homes and at restaurants and they were rumored to be paying their lobbyists extra so they could make lots of direct contributions to the politicians they favored. I attended lots of these events. I represented Freddie’s second largest customer for 3 years.

rockmom on September 17, 2008 at 3:20 PM

Dave Rywall on September 17, 2008 at 1:56 PM

He’s becoming so feeble and ridiculous he won’t have a prayer of remembering what he has said; even from the day before.

It’ll actually be cruel and inhumane to watch…!

J_Gocht on September 17, 2008 at 3:26 PM

J_Gocht on September 17, 2008 at 3:26 PM

Well, if anyone would know feeble and ridiculous, it’s you.

DrSteve on September 17, 2008 at 3:36 PM

AIG, stick with AIG Obama, that way you won’t have to know what you are talking about.
Poor Obama, I would like to see what economics courses he took at Columbia…oh, yeah he won’t release his transcripts.
Maybe as a community organizer he learned economics, or maybe Johnson the ex executive of Fannie Mae who is a key staffer on Obama’s campaign taught him, or maybe the $3.4 million of earmarks he sought for Biden’s lobbying son was for payment of some economics classes…what else is there, that is the extent of his resume.

right2bright on September 17, 2008 at 3:40 PM

Well maybe he stayed at a Holiday Inn Express in Hollywood last night!

rockmom on September 17, 2008 at 3:44 PM

DrSteve on September 17, 2008 at 3:36 PM

Yah know Doc, I was thinkin’ the same thing until I had opportunity to review some of Johnny Mc’s pressers over the last tow or three weeks.

Senator Mc’Cain: in just the last fortnight…







A plan… can the olde fart find his way to the restroom by his own self or does someone have hold his hand…?

You’re the Doc…!

J_Gocht on September 17, 2008 at 3:54 PM

Eh, I don`t care who wins. It`s all over.

ThePrez on September 17, 2008 at 4:18 PM

ThePrez on September 17, 2008 at 4:18 PM

Got your life savings in the same place I got mine “Prez”…?

J_Gocht on September 17, 2008 at 4:23 PM

ThePrez on September 17, 2008 at 4:18 PM

We went into 60% cash about 90 days ago.

I’m going to hold onto our energy positions, they’ve been real good to us over the last ten years. We’re in it for the long term; so a six to twelve month correction is OK.

Precious metals have been plummeting recently and now gold and silver are making a significant recovery. We’re going to stand pat there.

Hang tough, don’t panic, God loves you…!

J_Gocht on September 17, 2008 at 4:34 PM


The Democrats are ass deep in this and the only thing that will save them is a complicit press and an idiot base. I can see from your base they got the idiot base covered.

BTW, Obama is a crook. McCain is not.

Terrye on September 17, 2008 at 4:48 PM

I bet old J here was cheering those Democrats on when they bled Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac dry. Yep, drag out the poor people to hide behind while you refuse to even properly do the books.

It is obvious from this post that McCain did seek reform and better oversight of these institutions and the Democrats killed the issue because they were making money off of it. After all, the president was a Republican so if things went to hell..what did they care? Just blame Bush.

Terrye on September 17, 2008 at 4:51 PM

I mean come on, the Democrats have been in control of Congress for 2 years and just what the hell have they done to stop this from happening? nothing. All they do is say they are not the ones responsible.

yeah, vote Democrat. The party that is not responsible. There you go.

Terrye on September 17, 2008 at 4:53 PM

Obambi buys a 2 minute commercial on the economy:

McCain better not wait too long. He’s playing catch-up now and Obambi is setting the narrative.

rigdown on September 17, 2008 at 5:43 PM

I agree that McCain needs an ad on this. Here is my proposal:

MyriadScreed on September 17, 2008 at 5:48 PM

Terrye on September 17, 2008 at 4:53 PM

Hey Terrye, I’m given Newt credit for the $281 billion surplus that Dubyah had when he took charge in 2000.

I’m also going to fault Barrack for the $700 trillion deficit Nancy left him with when he’s elected in 2008…!

Fair enough…?

J_Gocht on September 17, 2008 at 5:57 PM

Not only should this be a commercial, but Maverick should go back to the Senate and reintroduce this legislation. Harry Reid says “No one knows what to do.” This seems to be a good place to start. It would also serve to contrast Maverick’s action and The One’s talk.

msyb on September 17, 2008 at 6:16 PM

For shame indeed!

What an insult to PIG’S!

FiveWays on September 17, 2008 at 1:11 PM

You can put lipstick on an Obama, and he’s still a Obama!!!

landlines on September 17, 2008 at 7:47 PM

yep, love all those really expert opinons, but who cares

foxone on September 17, 2008 at 10:15 PM

An Obama Administration would be corrupt. It is the Democrats at Fannie Mae who caused the current financial crisis. In contrast, McCain-Palin stand for real reform.

Phil Byler on September 17, 2008 at 10:37 PM

“Is Team Obama so incompetent that they couldn’t check the name before issuing the statement?”

Yes, they are. Read his Latin America policy doc and notice his “experts” on the region misspell Colombia as “Columbia.”

Golden Boy on September 17, 2008 at 10:50 PM

If McCain is worth his age in gold, he needs to make an ad out of this. Just simple “in 2003, I co-sponsored the …. Act because I knew Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were in trouble. Unfortunately, the Democrats in committee prevented it from being submitted to the Senate. And here we are.”

Seixon on September 18, 2008 at 4:20 AM

Oh, and I thought I might add that McCain and a few others introduced literally the same Act in July 2003.

Seixon on September 18, 2008 at 4:22 AM

Ed – since this one is on the sidebar, you really should replace your Gibson vid with the one Ace links to, showing the interim CEO of Fannie addressing the swearing in ceremony of the CBC in ’05, before the vid cuts to Gibson.

rhodeymark on September 18, 2008 at 6:25 AM

That’s Jamie GORELICK, not Gurelli as in the transcript, she of “Miss Gorelick, tear down this wall” fame.

sissywillis on September 18, 2008 at 9:39 AM

Fox and Friends is on this today. John Gibson talked about it last night. At least those who watch Fox are getting the picture.

rockmom on September 18, 2008 at 11:05 AM

I hve to tell you all that as a former lobbyist who worked on this legislation, McCain and the other small group of Republicans who were sounding the alarms about Fannie and Freddie years ago were seen as either cranks or shills for the big banks who wanted Fannie and Freddie reined in. I used to be on Fannie and Freddie’s side in this and I am really embarrassed to admit it today.

It turns out those big banks were right and so was McCain. The big banks are actually very well regulated and most of them stayed away from the stinkier kind of lending that got Countrywide in trouble. Fannie and Freddie used their implicit government guarantee and resulting lower capital costs to nearly corner the market and force competitors into riskier and riskier loans. It is a little complicated to explain to the average person, but basically the entire financial system became a house of Once they fell the entire structure crashed.

Democrats defended fannie and Freddie for years, not just because they were being paid to, but because they were convinced that Fan and Fred would be the source of big money for low-income housing, grants to their favorite groups like ACORN, etc. Many Republicans were content wuth them becaue the homeownership rate kept increasing and the economy contiuean and Fred were happy to divert some of their staggering profits to these efforts because it bought them so much goodwill in Congress and elsewhere. But behind the scenes they were ruthless in pricing, in negotiating deals with their customers, and in pursuing every last dollar of profit they could. They knew they were massively distorting the market and they didn’t care.

rockmom on September 18, 2008 at 11:16 AM

rockmom on September 18, 2008 at 11:05 AM

rocky, does anyone except Hot Aire posters and the GOP chorus and choir watch FAUX…? ;)

J_Gocht on September 18, 2008 at 2:27 PM

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