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Lobbyist Hired by Freddie Mac to Work on McCain Is Now Senator's Aide
The commerce committee, which McCain chaired, considered taking up legislation to address Fannie and Freddie in 2003 but refrained from doing so because it lacked jurisdiction, Rogers said.
McCain continued to talk about the compensation issue. But inside Freddie Mac, Buse's effort was viewed as "hugely successful," a former Freddie Mac lobbyist said. "The statements didn't go away completely, but in terms of Senator McCain doing anything about it, it just never materialized. As far as I know, Buse was the only person working that issue for Fannie or Freddie, so he got a lot of credit internally for the results."
As a Freddie Mac lobbyist, Buse participated in a meeting on executive compensation with aides to members of the commerce committee, said sources informed about the matter who insisted on anonymity to avoid professional repercussions. Freddie Mac spokeswoman Sharon McHale said she was unable to get any information on Buse's relationship with the company.
McCain campaign spokesman Rogers said Buse "met with, obviously, a variety of staff." He said Buse never spoke with McCain about Freddie Mac, Fannie Mae or executive compensation.
McCain co-sponsored a bill to overhaul regulation of Fannie and Freddie in September 2003 and again in 2006. "He helped sound the alarm on the risk that Fannie and Freddie posed to the taxpayers unless they were reformed," Rogers said. McCain also advocated requiring companies to count stock option awards as expenses, a move opposed by many corporations because it could depress their earnings and make options less plentiful.
The lobbying reports filed by Buse's firm say his work for Freddie Mac involved "general issues affecting the mortgage industry." The forms listed four other ML Strategies employees as lobbyists for Freddie Mac, but a spokeswoman for the firm, Gina P. Addis, referred questions about their work to Buse.
Buse was nicknamed "The Ferret" because he helped his boss, McCain, find pork-barrel provisions buried in legislation. McCain has said he considered Buse to be like a son.
Buse left the commerce committee staff to lobby, signing on clients as diverse as oil giant Exxon Mobil, Wall Street firm Goldman Sachs and the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, according to the government records. He also represented telecommunications clients affected by the committee.
Buse returned to McCain's office this year as chief of staff.
Davis, the McCain campaign manager, last week defended his long association with the Homeownership Alliance, saying he served as "the public face of an organization that promoted homeownership."
But people who worked for Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the Homeownership Alliance said the group's central mission was promoting Fannie and Freddie.
Kenneth A. Guenther, a former alliance chairman, said it was "committed to putting out the word in terms of the good things that Fannie and Freddie were doing to promote home ownership, particularly minority home ownership."
Davis said he had taken a leave of absence from his lobbying firm, Davis Manafort, for 18 months and earned no income from the firm. He added: "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."
Sources familiar with the arrangements, however, corroborated news reports last week that Davis Manafort received monthly payments of $15,000 from Freddie Mac as recently as August. As first reported by Newsweek, documents on file with the Virginia State Corporation Commission show that as of March 31, Davis was still listed as an officer and director of the firm.
Staff writer Zachary A. Goldfarb, research director Lucy Shackelford and staff researcher Julie Tate contributed to this report.