20 sep. 2008

McCain's video release, September 18, 2008. Yea Lying Again


"Obama has no background in economics. Who advises him? The Post says it's Franklin Raines, for "advice on mortgage and housing policy." Shocking. Under Raines, Fannie Mae committed "extensive financial fraud." Raines made millions. Fannie Mae collapsed. Taxpayers? Stuck with the bill."

An already nasty presidential election campaign is getting nastier. The meltdown on Wall Street has touched off frantic attempts by both the McCain and Obama camps to secure political advantage and indulge in guilt by association. Over the past 24 hours, both campaigns have issued video press releases (let's not call them ads until they actually air somewhere) attempting to show that the other side's javascript:void(0)"advisers" are somehow responsible for the crisis. The latest McCain attack is particularly dubious.
The Facts
The McCain video attempts to link Obama to Franklin Raines, the former CEO of the bankrupt mortgage giant, Fannie Mae, who also happens to be African American. It then shows a photograph of an elderly white woman taxpayer who has supposedly been "stuck with the bill" as a result of the "extensive financial fraud" at Fannie Mae.
The Obama campaign last night issued a statement by Raines insisting, "I am not an advisor to Barack Obama, nor have I provided his campaign with advice on housing or economic matters." Obama spokesman Bill Burton went a little further, telling me in an e-mail that the campaign had "neither sought nor received" advice from Raines "on any matter."
So what evidence does the McCain campaign have for the supposed Obama-Raines connection? It is pretty flimsy, but it is not made up completely out of whole cloth. McCain spokesman Brian Rogers points to three items in the Washington Post in July and August. It turns out that the three items (including an editorial) all rely on the same single conversation, between Raines and a Washington Post business reporter, Anita Huslin, who wrote a profile of the discredited Fannie Mae boss that appeared on July 16. The profile reported that Raines, who retired from Fannie Mae four years ago, had "taken calls from Barack Obama's presidential campaign seeking his advice on mortgage and housing policy matters."
Since this has now become a campaign issue, I asked Huslin to provide the exact circumstances of the quote. She explained that she was chatting with Raines during the photo shoot, and asked "if he was engaged at all with the Democrats' quest for the White House. 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.')"
By Raines's own account, he took a couple of calls from someone on the Obama campaign, and they had some general discussions about economic issues. I have asked both Raines and the Obama people for more details on these calls and will let you know if I receive a reply.
The Pinocchio Test
The McCain campaign is clearly exaggerating wildly in attempting to depict Franklin Raines as a close adviser to Obama on "housing and mortgage policy." If we are to believe Raines, he did have a couple of telephone conversations with someone in the Obama campaign. But that hardly makes him an adviser to the candidate himself -- and certainly not in the way depicted in the McCain video release.