A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

Freddie, Fannie and Barack


Update, Sept. 19: Portions of this post were based on incomplete data. We have struck through the incorrect sections. Please see here for our corrected account. We apologize for the inconvenience.

In a Sept. 16 stump speech in Vienna, Ohio, Republican presidential nominee John McCain went after Barack Obama, his Democratic counterpart, charging that Obama can’t possibly hope to change Washington. After all, McCain said, Obama is a big part of the problem. Why? Here’s McCain:

McCain (Sept. 16, Vienna, Ohio): He talks a tough game on the financial crisis, but the facts tell a different story. Senator Obama took more money from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac than anyone but the chairman of the committee they answer to, and he put Fannie Mae’s CEO, who helped create this problem in charge of finding his vice president. That’s not change, that’s what’s broken in Washington.

McCain’s allegation about Obama’s contributions from the FMs is not true. As we’ve said many times, it’s illegal for candidates to accept contributions directly from corporations. But the FEC does keep track of the employers of individuals who give at least $200 to candidates. And according to the respected nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics, in the 2008 election cycle Barack Obama has received $18,150 from employees of Freddie Mac. CRP does not list any Obama contributions from Fannie Mae.

But Obama is not No. 2 on the list of those getting contributions from the two companies, as McCain said. In fact, he ranks fourth in combined contributions, trailing Sen. Christopher Dodd, Rep. Melissa Bean and Sen. Lamar Alexander. McCain also neglects to mention his own $9,500 from Freddie Mac.

Obama is second on the list of those getting contributions from employees of only Freddie Mac. But, seriously, neither candidate’s number really makes much difference. Obama has raised more than $389.4 million in the 2008 election cycle. That makes his combined contributions from the FMs work out to roughly 0.005 percent of his total contributions. And McCain has raised about $174.2 million, making his combined FM contributions work out to … 0.005 percent.

Oh, and that part about Fannie Mae’s CEO being on Obama’s VP committee? Sort of. On June 4, Obama announced that Caroline Kennedy, Eric Holder and Jim Johnson would head his VP search committee. Kennedy, of course, is the daughter of JFK. Holder was Bill Clinton’s deputy attorney general. Johnson remained on Obama’s committee for just a week. He resigned on June 11, amid allegations that Johnson received preferential treatment from Countrywide Financial Corp.

But Johnson wasn’t the current CEO of Fannie Mae, as you might think from listening to McCain. He left nine years ago, in 1999.