McCain aide's ties to Freddie eyed

WASHINGTON -- Democrat Barack Obama's campaign on Wednesday demanded an accounting of work done by a lobbying firm founded by Republican John McCain's campaign manager for Freddie Mac, the mortgage giant recently bailed out by the federal government.

The New York Times reported that lobbying firm Davis Manafort received $15,000 a month from Freddie Mac, a central player in the crisis affecting Wall Street, from the end of 2005 through last month. The company was founded by Rick Davis, who left the firm in late 2006 to run McCain's campaign.

Stefanie Mullin, a spokeswoman for the Federal Housing Finance Agency, told Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call that all lobbying by Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, another troubled mortgage giant, had stopped and their political consulting contracts were being terminated. The federal agency took over the mortgage firms last month.

The payments to Davis Manafort are on top of more than $30,000 a month that went directly to Davis for five years starting in 2000. That money came from Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae as part of the Homeownership Alliance, an advocacy group that Davis headed.

"The question … is this: Did Freddie Mac or any other special interests buy access to John McCain by compensating top officials, including Rick Davis?" Obama communications director Dan Pfeiffer said.

McCain's campaign quickly pointed out that Davis took a leave from Davis Manafort about 18 months ago and has had no financial stake in the company since.

In a statement, the McCain campaign said Davis never lobbied for Freddie Mac or Fannie Mae, and that McCain advocated stricter oversight of both organizations in 2006.

"This was not a direct lobbying thing," said Bill Maloni, a former Fannie Mae senior vice president for government and industrial relations. "It was an advocacy group in support of homeownership broadly." Maloni said Davis was sought for "his broader GOP relationships and support."

Freddie Mac spokesman Doug Duvall declined to comment.

McCain's campaign has attacked Obama for ties to former officials of Fannie and Freddie. The Republican is running a TV ad suggesting Obama is taking advice from former Fannie chairman Franklin Raines, which Raines has said is incorrect.

Obama has received $126,349 in campaign donations from Fannie and Freddie executives and their political action committees, according to the non-partisan Center for Responsive Politics. McCain has received $21,550.

Other connections:

• McCain senior adviser Charles Black lobbied for Freddie Mac, from 1999 to 2004. Reports filed by his firm, BKSH & Associates, show Freddie spent $820,000 for that work.

• William Daley, an Obama campaign co-chairman and economic adviser, is a former board member of Fannie Mae. Daley's son, William Daley Jr., was listed as a Fannie Mae lobbyist from 2002 through 2005, according to the company's Senate disclosure reports.