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Entries in Freddie Mac (9)

Wednesday
Jan252012

With New Documents, Gingrich Tries to Diffuse Freddie Mac Frenzy

Jessica McGowan/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Newt Gingrich has tried to calm the grumbling over his consulting work for Freddie Mac by giving the appearance of transparency while flipping the issue around on his chief rival, Mitt Romney.

The Gingrich Group, the consulting firm that the eponymous former House speaker started, released another contract with Freddie Mac Tuesday night as Romney’s campaign continued to insist that Gingrich is hiding something. The documents show that Gingrich was hired in 1999 to work for Mitchell Delk, who was the mortgage giant’s top lobbyist.

Gingrich, listed as a “Contractor” in the agreement, was to advise Freddie Mac on “strategic planning and public policy.” In bold type, the contract says that “nothing herein is or shall be construed as an agreement to provide lobbying services of any kind or engage in lobbying activities.”

Still, Romney and others have characterized Gingrich’s role with Freddie Mac as that of a lobbyist, meeting with elected officials to sway them on legislation. Freddie Mac paid Gingrich $1.6 million between 1999 and 2007.

Gingrich Wednesday tried to deflect the barbs tying him to the toxic mortgage giant by drawing attention to the stock that Romney held in Fannie Mae and in Freddie Mac. “The question has to be, if Romney is such a great manager, how come he didn’t do anything as a stockholder about these two companies?” Gingrich said on Fox News.

It’s unclear whether more documents will be released by the Gingrich Group, which also goes by the name Center for Health Transformation. Asked whether more papers were coming, a spokeswoman for the group, Susan Meyers, said, “I don’t know.”

“I’m so tired of this,” she added.

If the nagging Freddie Mac spat is resolved, Gingrich still might have to weather turbulence over the ethics investigation into his conduct in the 1990s.

The Romney campaign has reignited that flame after former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told CNN Tuesday that Gingrich has no chance of being president because of his past. “That will never happen,” she said. “There is something I know. The Republicans, if they choose to nominate him, that’s their prerogative.”

Romney jumped on the comment.

“That’s one of the reasons why I’m saying that all of the records that were part of the ethics investigation, all of the transcripts, all of the records have to be made public,” Romney said on Fox Wednesday morning. “Not just the final white-washed report, but the full record....We need to understand why that is, and those records need to be released because you know that if Nancy Pelosi knows those things right now, she will hand them to Barack Obama’s campaign if Speaker Gingrich were our nominee.”

Few people know what, if anything, remains in the private records of the 1997 ethics report that concluded that Gingrich had wrongly used a tax-exempt college course to further a political agenda. But the report was made public, and people familiar with the process told ABC News that it’s unlikely that a damaging tidbit could emerge if it even existed.

“He thinks that there’s a report,” a former Republican member of Congress who worked on the report said of Romney. “But when you have a hearing like that...the final report is made public. And the final report is public, and all the testimony and discussion is on the record and public.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Monday
Jan232012

Florida Primary: Romney Focuses on Housing Crisis, Attacks Gingrich on Freddie Mac Ties

ABC News(TAMPA, Fla.) -- The issue of the housing crisis has stayed largely on the backburner in the 2012 campaign cycle, but that's likely to change this week as candidates head to Florida, one of the states hit hardest by the housing bubble.

Mitt Romney was quick to jump on that bandwagon, playing up the housing issue as he kicked off the week of campaigning in the Sunshine State, and hitting his chief rival, South Carolina primary winner Newt Gingrich, hard on his past ties to beleaguered housing giant Freddie Mac.

Romney's message can have far-reaching impact in Florida, where the housing market remains in doldrums and unemployment is at 10 percent, higher than the national average of 8.5 percent.

"It's very big because so many communities are just so hard hit by it. People see it up close and personal," said Susan MacManus, a political science professor at the University of South Florida. "There's just this nagging thing that the federal government can help the rich and help the poor but when it comes to the middle-class person whose losing their home, they haven't done squat. So they [the candidates] are going to be aiming that message toward the middle-income, middle-age voters."

Over the last four years, Florida has consistently been among the top four states in foreclosures. In 2011, it ranked seventh in RealtyTrac's list of states with the highest foreclosure rates. One of the main reasons for that drop, experts say, is the backlog in the market that will push many foreclosures to this year.

One in every 360 housing units received a foreclosure filing in December, according to RealtyTrac, and the problem is particularly amplified in cities such as Miami and Palm Beach.

Romney, who advocates a hands-off approach, will have to walk a fine line in a state that's particularly sensitive about this issue. The former governor earned liberal ire in October for suggesting that the foreclosure process should just "run its course and hit the bottom."

"The idea of the federal government running around and saying, hey, we're going to give you some money for trading in your old car, or we're going to give you a few thousand bucks for buying a new house, or we're going to keep banks from foreclosing if you can't make your payments, these kind of actions on the part of government haven't worked," Romney said at a debate in Nevada, which has the highest foreclosure rate in the country.

Romney, however, sang a different tune in 2008, which may not only disconnect him from conservatives but is also unlikely to sit in well with Florida voters.

The former governor suggested four years ago that one way to help the housing market would be "by loosening and relaxing some of the requirements of the FHA program so that more loans can be guaranteed and more people can stay in their homes without having to foreclose."

Many economists say it was exactly those lack of restrictions that caused the housing bubble. In Florida, the problem of loose mortgage standards was especially compounded and is one that is still being played out in courts to this day.

Those questions, however, have yet to be posed to Romney, who is on the offensive against Gingrich for his past work. The former Massachusetts governor questioned Gingrich's claims that he did not lobby and called on him to release his contract with Freddie Mac, as well as his list of clients.

Some of the documents pertaining to Gingrich's work with Freddie Mac were released Monday evening.

Gingrich has said that, as an adviser, he warned Freddie Mac that its model would collapse, a warning that Romney charged Monday should've been made public. He went another step further and said the former House speaker should actually return the money he made from Freddie Mac.

Restore Our Future, the super PAC supporting Romney, has already been attacking Gingrich for nearly a month in the Sunshine State.

Gingrich has said that the decision to release his contract is in the hands of his former company, the Center for Health Transformation, and he denied once again that he did any lobbying.

Connecting with people in a state that has one of the nation's highest unemployment rates will be a tough job for Romney and Gingrich, both of whom are millionaires.

Jobs are a prime agenda for Floridians. Only four other states -- California, Nevada, Mississippi and Rhode Island -- have an unemployment rate higher than Florida's while Illinois and North Carolina are tied. For Romney, that challenge is magnified even more. The former governor has said he would release his tax records on Tuesday, which would, on one hand, satisfy his rivals' demands, but on the other hand could expose the amount of wealth he has, which his competitors could use to present him as disconnected with voters.

Gingrich and Romney went head-to-head Monday night for the first time in Florida in an NBC News debate at the University of South Florida in Tampa.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Monday
Jan232012

Gingrich Wants Freddie Mac Records Released Before Fla. Primary

Jessica McGowan/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- In response to lobbying accusations from his opponents, Newt Gingrich told ABC's George Stephanopoulos on Monday that it would be “very helpful” if his former company, Center for Health Transformation, released the consulting contract he had with mortgage giant Freddie Mac before the Florida primary on Jan. 31.

“I think it would be very helpful and our attorneys are talking with the company.  You know I left the company so, it’s their decision and Nancy Desmond, the president of the company, has to make the decision.  But I’d be very comfortable releasing them,” he said.

Since Gingrich won Saturday’s South Carolina primary, Mitt Romney has upped the attacks on the former speaker.  In Florida Sunday night, Romney questioned the work Gingrich did for Freddie Mac and asked for him to release those records.

“Over the last, what, 15 years, since he left the House, he talks about great bold movements and ideas.  Well, what’s he been doing for 15 years?  He has been working as a lobbyist.  He was working as a lobbyist and selling influence around Washington,” Romney said.  “He was working for Freddie Mac -- heard of those guys?  He says that he’s just been a historian, I would like him to release his records, what was his work product?”

Gingrich said his former company is working around the confidentiality agreements and added that he found it “ironic” that Romney is the one advocating for this release.

“Here’s someone who has released none of his business records, who has decided to make a stand on transparency without being transparent,” Gingrich said.

“I did no lobbying, period.  [Romney] keeps using the word lobbyist because I’m sure his consultants tell him it scores well.  It’s not true.  He knows it’s not true.  He is deliberately saying things he knows are false.  I just think that’s what the next week will be like,” he said.

With nine days until Floridians vote, Gingrich previewed his criticism of Romney, who is currently leading in most polls in the sunshine state.

“I want to talk about big issues.  I want to talk about Romneycare.  I want to draw a contrast between Romneycare and Obamacare, which are virtually identical and what I would do in developing patient power and allowing people and their doctors to be in charge," Gingrich said.  “So we’ll see, I think the people of Florida will prefer big solutions to small negative attacks.  And I think in the end just as happened in South Carolina, Gov. Romney’s liberal record in Massachusetts plus the style of his campaign will end up I think having him lose.”

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Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Saturday
Jan212012

Romney to Gingrich: Release Freddie Mac Report

Richard Ellis/Getty Images(GREENVILLE, S.C.) -- Mitt Romney for the first time called on former Speaker Newt Gingrich on Saturday to release the reports he wrote for Freddie Mac.

"Speaker Gingrich worked for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. By the way, didn't he say he was going to release information about his relationship there?" Romney asked at a drop-by event at his campaign headquarters in Greenville. "Let's see what report he wrote for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, what the conclusions were and what the contract looked like. I thought he said he was going to do that. And let's have him describe his relationships in Washington."

Romney said Gingrich, who has maintained that he was a "historian" for the mortgage lender during the 2000s despite receiving $1.6 million over nine years in consulting fees should release the reports.

"He also said that he was one of the authors of the Reagan revolution economically and created these jobs. Now that we’ve looked at the Reagan diaries and seen he's mentioned only once and in a way where Reagan said he was wrong, I'd like to see what he actually told Freddie Mac," Romney said. "Don't you think we ought to see it? This is a big issue. We've got Washington insider talking about Freddie Mac, let's see what his report was to Freddie Mac, what he said to them, what advice he gave them," said Romney.

Romney's request comes as he has spent the week explaining why he will not release his tax returns until April, an issue that South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley brought up during the event on Saturday morning.

"All this issue about the tax returns, he’s doing it, he's going to do it in April, he's going to show 'em, and what we're going to see is he was successful. We’re going to see that he paid on time," Haley said.

Romney also said he wished he'd been invited to join the conference call President Obama hosted last night with donors to solicit ideas for his State of the Union address.

"I wasn't invited on the call, but it was unfortunate, because I would have had a lot to say," Romney said. "First, I would have told him, isn't it time to actually put together a plan to create jobs in America?"

When a woman nearby yelled something about Obama's "cash for clunkers" program, Romney turned her remark into a new catch phrase.

"Yeah, that's right, he had a plan to get the whole economy going, cash for clunkers," Romney replied. "So we're going to, that's not a bad idea, Obama is the clunker. We don't need cash to get rid of that clunker, we just need votes."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
Nov182011

Newt Gingrich Hit on Health Care Flip-Flops, Think Tank

AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- As Newt Gingrich attempts to shrug off his political baggage, the former House speaker is under new scrutiny for having close ties to health care giants and flip-flopping on his statements on health care.

The Center for Health Transformation, which Gingrich founded, raked in millions of dollars from heavy hitters like GE Healthcare and Wellpoint, as first reported by the Washington Post. The group says it does not lobby, but on its website, it touts its ability to build bridges between the federal government and private sector. Among its strengths, the think tank lists its unparalleled “network of allies” in the federal government, states, corporations and hospitals; “coalition building capabilities,” and “media visibility.”

Gingrich no longer owns the company and left when he decided to run for president. But his work with the group shows that the former congressman from Georgia has yet to overcome the challenge of reconciling his two roles of businessman and politician.

He has blasted the individual mandate in the Affordable Care Act, saying in a video that he is “completely opposed to the Obamacare mandate on individuals,” and that he “fought it for two and half years at the Center for Health Transformation.” But the group, which Gingrich founded, actually supported imposing a mandate on those who made more than $50,000 per year.

CHT spokeswoman Susan Meyers said the group advocates such a move at the state level, not solutions that are “forced at the federal level” and that Gingrich supports “free market solutions.”

“We believe that any idea that states want to originate, that’s fine,” Meyers told ABC News. “It should be their prerogative if they choose to do that.”

Still, Gingrich hasn’t made that clear. In fact, he criticized opponent Mitt Romney for implementing such a “bureaucratic” mandate in Massachusetts.

CHT also advocates centralizing electronic medical records, a key component of President Obama’s Affordable Care Act, which the organization has denounced.

Gingrich also broke from the right when he praised his client Gundersen Lutheran Health System‘s end-of-life best practice as one that “empowers patients and families.” At the height of the health care debate in which end-of-life care became a key dividing issue between Republicans and Democrats, Gingrich stood out alone in the Republican field.

Gingrich’s campaign has said the firm brings in revenue of $5 million a year, a figure Meyers would not confirm.

Gingrich’s other businesses are also under the spotlight. Through Gingrich Group, the former House speaker consulted for reportedly $1.8 million for eight years for Freddie Mac, the federally-backed mortgage giant that most conservatives say should be eliminated. While Gingrich has denied lobbying for them, he hasn’t provided a viable explanation of what kind of services he provided to an organization that he himself recently said should be abolished. In 2008, he demanded that President Obama and other members of Congress return the money they received from them, and more recently said Democrats like Rep. Barney Frank should be jailed for having ties with lobbyists at those organizations.

The connections with Washington insiders and multi-million dollar corporations makes it hard for Gingrich to cast himself as an outsider and clouds his “new Newt” campaign, experts say.

“Even if there’s no ethical or legal impropriety, the optics are bad,” said John Pitney Jr., politics professor at Claremont McKenna College who worked for Gingrich. But “for Newt, it’s not at all surprising. He had to deal with ethics questions throughout his tenure as speaker. … The idea that questions are emerging about ethics is very unsurprising.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Nov172011

Newt Gingrich Dodges Questions on Freddie Mac Link in Florida

Jessica McGowan/Getty Images(JACKSONVILLE, Fla.) -- Alluding to the scandal embroiling his ascendant campaign, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich told a crowd in Jacksonville, Fla., Thursday that he would “cheerfully answer every single question” reporters had.

Following the event, however, he refused to answer any questions about the work he did for mortgage giant Freddie Mac.

In recent days, it has been revealed that Gingrich earned $1.6 million for work he did for Freddie Mac, the agency many blame for the housing bubble that preceded the financial crisis.

“In the next three weeks I predict to you, we’ll have all sorts of questions about me,” he said. “And it’s fine. You cannot ask the people of the United States to [give] you the most powerful governmental job in the world, particularly on a campaign that is promising very dramatic change, and not have them vet you carefully and thoroughly."

“I will cheerfully answer every single question they ask,” he added, “and at the end of it, you will be relatively convinced, I believe, that I did no lobbying of any kind, I did no influence peddling of any kind.”

Gingrich never mentioned Freddie Mac by name, but said he was proud of the work he did in the private sector after leaving Congress in 1999.

“If you just take what people say about me in the debates and say to yourself, ‘Gee, is that a person somebody might have hired for advice?’ I think it’s hard to argue that they should have hired somebody that is truly dumb,” Gingrich said. “I’ve been a very hard-working business person. I think I represent the wing of America that believes that hard work and success is good, not bad, and I’m happy to answer for it.”

Gingrich took more than a dozen questions from a friendly crowd, peppering his answers with historical references, but refused to take reporters’ questions after the event.

Asked about Freddie Mac by ABC News, Gingrich said, “No, no, bye bye,” and when asked if he would answer questions, he said he had already answered the crowd’s questions.

Gingrich was particularly critical of the bipartisan congressional super committee charged with fixing the national budget this month.

“We are watching the current Congress repeat every mistake the Democrats made ramming through an unread stimulus bill and Obamacare,” Gingrich said. “Secret negotiations among a handful of members will lead to a gigantic bill no one understands. That bill will then move to an up or down vote with no hearings, no understanding and no amendments.”

“We have moved from ‘we the people’ to ‘we the insiders’ and it is profoundly wrong,” added Gingrich.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Nov162011

Bachmann Attacks Gingrich on Link to Freddie Mac

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images(WEBSTER CITY, Iowa) -- GOP contender Rep. Michele Bachmann attacked the latest GOP frontrunner Wednesday, assailing former Speaker Newt Gingrich for receiving over $1 million in consulting fees from mortgage giant Freddie Mac.

Gingrich, now nearing the top of the polls, said Wednesday he did not remember how much he was paid for work he did at Freddie Mac between 1999 and 2007, but a former Freddie Mac official said it was upward of $1.5 million.

Freddie Mac and its sister institution Fannie Mae have been blamed by many, on both sides of the aisle, for playing a role in the housing crisis that precipitated the financial crisis, making Gingrich’s involvement there fodder for the competition.

“Fannie and Freddie, as you know, have been the epicenter of the financial meltdown in this country,” Bachmann said. “And whether former Speaker Gingrich made $300,000 or whether he made $2 million, the point is that he took money to influence senior Republicans to be favorable toward Fannie and Freddie,” she said Wednesday at a campaign event in Webster City, Iowa.

“While he was taking that money, I was fighting against Fannie and Freddie.  And I believe that Fannie and Freddie should be allowed to go into receivership and have an orderly winding down....And so I’m standing up for the little guy in the United States and I believe that Fannie and Freddie need to be shut down. And so I wasn’t shilling for them, I was fighting them,” she said.

The comments came following a CBS Early Show interview Wednesday morning in which Bachmann also came down hard on Gingrich for appearing with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi in a television ad about global warming, and for his support of an individual health care mandate.

“He was standing with Nancy Pelosi to advocate for a national sales tax on energy. That’s not what we need right now in our economy. He was also the chief author of the individual health care mandate and that is what is [now] known as Obamacare. No one wants to see that either,” Bachmann said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Nov162011

Newt Gingrich to Release Freddie Mac Records, Denies Lobbying

Jessica McGowan/Getty Image(NEW YORK) -- He may be climbing in the polls, but Newt Gingrich has little time to bask in his renewed popularity as he finds himself defending his role and pay at Freddie Mac.

Gingrich’s campaign said Wednesday they will release all the documents they legally can of his contract with the once-beleaguered housing giant. Gingrich continued to staunchly deny reports that he ever lobbied for the group, but he skirted questions about the financial payouts he received from Freddie Mac for his contracting work.

Bloomberg News reported Tuesday that the former House Speaker made between $1.6 million and $1.8 million in consultation fees in a nine-year span. Sources told Bloomberg that in 2006, Gingrich was asked “to build bridges to Capitol Hill Republicans and develop an argument on behalf of the company’s public-private structure that would resonate with conservatives seeking to dismantle it.”

Gingrich says he never lobbied on behalf of Freddie Mac and that he simply offered “strategic advice over a long period of time.”

When asked about his compensation, the former congressman said he couldn’t verify the specific amount.

A Freddie Mac spokesman confirmed to ABC News that Gingrich was a consultant for the group, not a lobbyist, but would not disclose his financial payout or details of his contract.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Sunday
Oct102010

White House Security Advisor Counseled, Lobbied for Financial Giants

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama's new National Security Advisor spent the decade prior to joining the White House as a legal advisor to powerful interests including Goldman Sachs and Citigroup, and as a lobbyist for Fannie Mae, where he oversaw the mortgage giant's aggressive campaign to undermine the credibility of a probe into its accounting irregularities, according to government reports and public disclosure forms.

Thomas E. Donilon has been formally advising Obama on national security matters since the president's transition to the White House, and he worked in President Clinton's state department during the 1990s. But in between these high-profile public-sector assignments, Donilon was a highly paid lobbyist who represented an array of well-heeled and powerful clients, including former Republican New Jersey Gov. Christie Todd Whitman and Obama's 2008 campaign fundraising chairman, billionaire heiress Penny Pritzker.

After a stint at the law firm O'Melveny & Myers, where Donilon was registered as a lobbyist for Fannie Mae, he took on full-time work with the mortgage giant as executive vice president for law and policy. Donilon's name appears on Fannie Mae's public lobbying disclosure reports between 2000 and 2005.

While housing sales were still booming, internally these were troubled years for the company. In a report first noted by ABC News in 2008, Donilon is described as someone who lobbied for and helped paint a rosy picture of Fannie Mae's financial health to the company's board. He did so at a time when Fannie Mae faced accusations that it was misstating its earnings from 1998 to 2004. Fannie Mae settled with the Securities and Exchange Commission for $400 million in 2006, and did not admit any wrongdoing.

Donilon's tactics reportedly included attacks on the agency responsible for policing Fannie Mae's operations, the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight (OFHEO), and an attempt to launch a separate investigation into OFHEO itself, according to a 2006 government report about Fannie Mae. Those efforts were ultimately unsuccessful, and regulators eventually discovered top Fannie Mae executives had been manipulating the company's financial reporting to maximize their bonuses.

During his 2008 campaign, Obama took a hard line on the behavior of lobbyists and decried the revolving door that allowed government employees to use their public sector connections to earn big money when they pass into the private sector. He created a rule that required lobbyists entering his administration to receive a waiver if they planned to do work related to their earlier lobbying efforts. But the restriction only covered those who had been lobbying within two years of taking their administration post. Donilon last registered to lobby in 2005.

A White House official told ABC News Friday that Donilon "did not require or receive a Pledge Waiver before starting as Deputy and does not need one now."

The administration official also noted that Donilon "divested all stock holdings in individual companies by Feb. 17, 2009 and did not need a waiver for his remaining assets," which are held in a variety of mutual funds, cash accounts and assorted bonds. Shortly after Obama's election, ABC News reported on Donilon's efforts on behalf of Fannie Mae from his position overseeing the company's sizeable legal and government affairs divisions.

Donilon did not comment for the 2008 report and his spokesman, Mike Hammer, did not offer comment when contacted Friday.

Fannie Mae's strategy, according to the 2006 report by the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight, was to neuter the agency charged with the company's oversight. "The goal of senior management was straightforward: to force OFHEO to rely on [Fannie Mae] for information and expertise to such a degree that Fannie Mae would essentially regulate itself," the report stated.

As this effort to minimize scrutiny was expanding, Fannie Mae's accounting practices began raising questions. In late 2003, its sister organization, Freddie Mac, disclosed it had misstated its accounting. Seeing the problems, OFHEO stepped up its monitoring of Fannie Mae and in a preliminary report in 2004 alleged the company had improperly used reserves to smooth its earnings.

ABC News reported that Fannie Mae executives began pushing back hard against the criticism. Its lobbyists -- overseen by Donilon -- pushed U.S. lawmakers to limit OFHEO's budget, and make it subject to annual approval. "[W] ith the knowledge and support of senior management," Fannie Mae's lobbyists "used their longstanding relationships with Congressional staff to attempt to interfere with OFHEO's special examination," according to the report.

They also tried to get OFHEO investigated. Email trails show that Fannie Mae lobbyists drafted legislation that required a probe into how the agency spent its money. While that effort was "conceived and executed" by the government relations team, it was "well known by many members of senior management" including Donilon," the report stated.

Shortly after Donilon's appointment to Obama's transition team in November 2008, Obama spokesperson Tommy Vietor said in a statement to ABC News that "Mr. Donilon is volunteering his time and more than 30 years of accomplishment to help prepare the State Department for an efficient transition to the President-elect, who is taking office at a time of war and when we are confronting a complex and challenging international environment. Mr. Donilon's experience in foreign affairs as Assistant Secretary of State and Chief of Staff at the State Department is critical to this review process."

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