Thomas Donilon, named by Barack Obama as an adviser to his transition team, oversaw lobbyist efforts to undermine OFHEO’s regulatory efforts over Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. ABC News reports on Donilon’s history and his participation in painting a much rosier picture than reality provided for Fannie Mae’s board. The Obama rebuttal will sound familiar to those who recall Jim Johnson’s involvement with Obama’s campaign:
One of Obama’s top transition team members, Thomas Donilon, oversaw an aggressive, backdoor lobbying campaign by mortgage giant Fannie Mae to undermine the credibility of a probe into the firm’s accounting irregularities, according to a 2006 government report on the company.
The effort — which reportedly included attacks on the funding for the oversight agency, the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight, and an attempt to launch a separate investigation into OFHEO itself — was ultimately unsuccessful, and regulators eventually discovered top Fannie Mae executives had been manipulating the company’s financial reporting to maximize their bonuses.
When ABC approached Team Obama for their response, they claimed that because Donilon has volunteered his time to the transition, they have no responsibility for him:
When asked about Donilon’s place in the Obama transition team, Obama spokesperson Tommy Vietor said in a statement that “Mr. Donilon is volunteering his time and more than 30 years of accomplishment to help prepare the State Department for an efficient transition to the President-elect, who is taking office at a time of war and when we are confronting a complex and challenging international environment. Mr. Donilon’s experience in foreign affairs as Assistant Secretary of State and Chief of Staff at the State Department is critical to this review process.”
Sound familiar? It approximates Obama’s response when people pointed out that the man he picked to lead his VP search team was one of the greedy executives he’d been demonizing on the campaign trail:
I would have to hire the vetter to vet the vetters. I mean at some point, we just asked people to do their assignments. Jim Johnson has a very discrete task, as does Eric Holder, and that is simply to gather up information about potential vice presidential candidates. They’re performing that job well. It’s a volunteer, unpaid position. … So these aren’t folks who are working for me, they’re not people who I have assigned to a particular job in a future administration.
That statement no longer applies, apparently. Donilon has already begun working in some capacity for the transition, which is the core of Obama’s coming administration. The volunteerism of former Fannie Mae executives and power players seems remarkable, until one recalls that Obama took money hand over fist from Fannie/Freddie sources — over $30,000 per year while in the Senate, far outstripping anyone else in Congress.
How interesting that Obama keeps selecting lobbyists for his transition team after spending most of his time over the past year issuing populist pap vilifying them. Among Fannie Mae’s culprits, Donilon occupies a special place, having successfully blocked regulators who tried to correct the corruption at the GSE as well as having misled board members to the extent of the fraud. He should be the target of an investigation, not an adviser to an incoming administration — and his inclusion on Obama’s team exposes Obama’s talk of “change” as a fraud in itself.