By Michael D. Shear
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
The lobbying firm founded and co-owned by Rick Davis, the campaign manager for Sen. John McCain's White House bid, received payments from Freddie Mac in recent months, despite assertions by Davis earlier this week that the firm's work for the mortgage giant had ended three years ago.
An industry source told The Washington Post that Davis's firm, Davis Manafort, continued to receive monthly payments in the $15,000 range from Freddie Mac until very recently, confirming an ongoing financial relationship reported last night in several other publications.
The source said Davis Manafort was paid for being on retainer to Freddie Mac but did little actual work after early 2007.
Two unidentified sources told the newspaper Roll Call yesterday that Davis Manafort is still receiving payments from the mortgage giant, one of the financial institutions at the center of the nation's housing crisis. The New York Times reported last night that the payments stopped last month.
Both reports appear to contradict Davis's comments to reporters on a conference call this week.
Before working on the McCain campaign, Davis had served as the president of the Homeownership Alliance, a group created to lobby for mortgage companies and other groups on behalf of homeownership.
"I have had a severed leave of absence from my firm for 18 months," he said Monday. "I have taken no compensation from my company, and our work for the Homeownership Alliance had ended about a year, year-and-a-half before that even started. So it's been over three years since there's been any activity in this area and since I've had any contact with those folks."
Davis has suspended his salary from Davis Manafort, but, as an equity partner in the firm, he continues to have an financial stake in its success.
A Times article this week said Davis received $2 million in compensation for his work at the Homeownership Alliance. But Davis said Monday that he had done no lobbying and dismissed the article.
"I was the public face of an organization that promoted homeownership for many years," Davis told reporters. "Sure, I have relationships there." But at the same time he was serving as a consultant to the alliance, Davis said, McCain was pursuing more regulation on the mortgage giants, Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae.
Campaign officials declined to make Davis available Tuesday night to answer questions about the payments.
The McCain campaign has no knowledge of the business arrangements that Davis Manafort has with clients, spokesman Tucker Bounds said. "What this campaign has made clear is that we are not commenting on an outside business that is unrelated to the daily activities of this campaign," Bounds said.
And he insisted that McCain did no favors for the housing industry because of any work that Davis did on behalf of the corporations or the alliance.
"It's pretty clear that the same people who ran Fannie and Freddie into the ground and stuck the taxpayers with the bill are now attacking John McCain, one of the few people in Washington who has ever stood up to them," Bounds said. "That shouldn't surprise anyone -- it's business as usual in Washington."
The news about Davis comes as both campaigns are trying to link their rivals to the failed mortgage institutions.
McCain has begun to run television commercials that link Sen. Barack Obama to two former chief executives of the once-venerated housing lenders. One ad ties Obama to Franklin Raines, who now denies comments he made to The Post this summer about sharing housing and economic advice with the senator from Illinois.
The other McCain ad links Obama to Jim Johnson, who was briefly in charge of Obama's vice presidential selection process before resigning amid public concern about his ties to the housing crisis.
Obama has attempted to link the senator from Arizona to the mortgage giants. Democrats have sent out information suggesting that almost two dozen people affiliated with the McCain campaign have ties to the housing firms.