The Rick Davis/Freddie Mac lie, compounded

Remember, I’ve resolved here to call a lie a lie, not a “spin” or an “exaggeration.” And this case, readers, sounds to me like a lie told to cover up a lie.

Republican Presidential nominee John McCain, responding to concern that his campaign manager and longtime political aide/confidante Rick Davis was paid for advocacy work on behalf of the now-wrecked Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae government-sponsored mortgage giants, told the New York Times a few days ago that Davis had no such involvement since 2005 — yet the Times found Freddie Mac had made payments to Davis’ lobbying firm through last month.

The McCain campaign posted a statement to its Web site yesterday attacking the Times’ reporting:

As has been previously reported, Mr. Davis separated from his consulting firm, Davis Manafort, in 2006. As has been previously reported, Mr. Davis has seen no income from Davis Manafort since 2006. Zero. Mr. Davis has received no salary or compensation since 2006. Mr. Davis has received no profit or partner distributions from that firm on any basis — weekly, bi-weekly, monthly, bi-monthly, quarterly, semi-annual or annual — since 2006. Again, zero. Neither has Mr. Davis received any equity in the firm based on profits derived since his financial separation from Davis Manafort in 2006.

Further, and missing from the Times’ reporting, Mr. Davis has never — never — been a lobbyist for either Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac. Mr. Davis has not served as a registered lobbyist since 2005.

Yet Newsweek reports Davis “has remained the treasurer and a corporate director of his lobbying firm this year, despite repeated statements by campaign officials that he had ended his relationship with the firm in 2006, according to corporate records.” Here’s one of those records, the firm’s 2008 annual report to the Virgina State Corporation Commission, listing Davis as an officer and director.

All of which is talking around the main point: These out-of-control mortgage lenders were shelling out paychecks to Davis and/or Davis’ firm for years merely because Davis is McCain’s top adviser. The Times’ sources “said they did not recall Mr. Davis’s doing much substantive work for the company in return for the money, other than speak to a political action committee of high-ranking employees in October 2006 on the approaching midterm Congressional elections. They said Mr. Davis’s firm, Davis & Manafort, had been kept on the payroll because of Mr. Davis’s close ties to Mr. McCain, the Republican presidential nominee, who by 2006 was widely expected to run again for the White House.”

And whether Davis has drawn a paycheck from his firm since 2006 isn’t the point. Does Davis contend he’ll never return to his firm after this campaign is done, a firm enriched in the interim by Freddie Mac? Certainly not. The fact is, the firm Davis helped found, of which he’s still apparently an officer and director, made about $500,000 from the failed mortgage giant based on Davis’ access to McCain and during the same time Davis has been working to put McCain in the White House (and all this after Davis undisputedly made about $2 million working on the mortgage lenders’ behalf from 2000 through 2005).

Having a top aide and/or his firm taking money from troubled mortgage lenders sounds not unlike the sort of “poor judgment” McCain showed in a scandal at the heart of the last big government bailout. And this series of lies to cover it up sounds like anything but “straight talk.”

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.