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A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

Obama’s Connection to Raines

Before the McCain-Palin campaign tried to link Sen. Barack Obama with political heavyweights in Chicago, the campaign claimed that Obama was being advised on the economy by Franklin Raines, former Fannie Mae CEO.

In an ad titled “Advice,” the McCain campaign makes the claim that “Obama has no background in economics.” Then it asks the question, “Who advises him?” The answer, according to the ad: “The Post says it’s Franklin Raines, for ‘advice on mortgage and housing policy.’ ”

The “Post” refers to the Washington Post. But the Post itself says the relationship between the Obama campaign and Raines isn’t clear. And Raines says he isn’t an Obama adviser.

According to the Post’s Michael Dobbs, who writes “The Fact Checker” column, “The McCain campaign is clearly exaggerating wildly in attempting to depict Franklin Raines as a close adviser to Obama on ‘housing and mortgage policy.’ ”

Why does Dobbs say this? The McCain-Palin claim relies on a quote from the Post’s Anita Huslin, who profiled Raines for the newspaper in July. In the article, Huslin wrote that Raines had “taken calls from Barack Obama’s presidential campaign seeking his advice on mortgage and housing policy matters.” But does that make him an adviser? Dobbs says that when he questioned Huslin about the quote, she explained that during a photo shoot for the article, she inquired about Raines’ role with the campaign. Huslin told Dobbs, “He said that he had gotten a couple of calls from the Obama campaign. I asked him about what, and he said ‘oh, general housing, economy issues.’ (’Not mortgage/foreclosure meltdown or Fannie-specific,’ I asked, and he said ‘no.’)”

Both Raines and the Obama campaign denied that the former CEO was an adviser to the presidential nominee. In a statement issued by the Obama campaign, Raines said, “I am not an advisor to Barack Obama, nor have I provided his campaign with advice on housing or economic matters.” Understandably, that may still leave some readers suspicious, but Raines also said as much when he e-mailed McCain campaign adviser Carly Fiorina before the ad was released. Raines sent Fiorina an e-mail after he heard that Fiorina had called him an adviser to Obama. Titled “Carly: Is this true?,” the e-mail went on to say, “I am not an adviser to the Obama campaign. Frank,” according to the Associated Press.

The AP reported that McCain campaign spokesman Brian Rogers said that he was unaware that Raines had e-mailed Fiorina, and Rogers also noted that the Post reported on three occasions, between July and the end of August, that Raines had been an adviser. In his report, Dobbs says all three references relied on the same quote from Huslin. Rogers told the AP that if Raines wasn’t an adviser, the campaign should have corrected the Post report earlier.

So is the McCain ad a wild exaggeration? The Washington Post’s Dobbs thinks so. He awarded McCain and company two pinnochios. You can read more about it here and here.