Meltdown: With Eye on Election, GOPers Grab for Raines

Republicans angry at what they perceive to be Democratic efforts to blame the economic crisis on the GOP are threatening to drag ex-Fannie Mae CEO Franklin Raines before the bright lights to answer questions.

Raines, who left the mortgage giant in 2004 in the wake of a massive accounting scandal, has become a lightning rod for Republican criticism because of his reported ties to Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Barack Obama, Ill., ties both he and the candidate have denied.

According to the Washington Post, Raines said Obama's campaign had called him for advice. Obama's presidential opponent, Sen. John McCain, Ariz., has tried to use those reported contacts as proof Raines was a de facto Obama campaign adviser.

However, an Obama spokesman has said the candidate "neither sought nor received" advice from Raines "on any matter." Raines later released a statement asserting he is not an advisor to Obama nor has he "provided his campaign with advice on housing or economic matters."

At a Tuesday House Government Reform and Oversight Committee hearing that touched on exorbitant executive pay packages being honored despite the collapse of their organizations, Rep. Tom Davis, R-Va., suggested hearing testimony from Raines.

"Do you think that somehow Mr. Raines -- do you think that somehow he should be exempt from coming before this committee, if we are going to have others with less responsibility" for the crisis "getting the same sums?"

Raines, who led the mortgage giant from 1999 to 2004, was forced into early retirement after investigators found widespread accounting irregularities which boosted the size of bonuses for Raines and other executives. Raines reportedly collected over $90 million in compensation, including bonuses and other perks , while at Fannie Mae.

Davis also raised the issue of campaign donations from Fannie Mae and its companion organization, Freddie Mac, to Democrats. "We'd hate to think the millions of dollars Fannie and Freddie executives contributed to Democratic congressional candidates also contributed to the reluctance to investigate this aspect of the crisis," he said.

Panel chair Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., said he was "somewhat taken aback when some Republicans on this committee started making a big deal about Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac," but agreed their synchronous collapses were "an important issue." He said his staff were looking into the matter and he was planning to hold a hearing on the topic.

A message for Raines was not immediately returned.

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