Examiner Editorial: Time to shine a light on Fannie and Freddie 

Tuesday is President James Madison’s birthday and National Freedom of Information Act Day, the high point of Sunshine Week celebrations of the public’s right to know.

Madison enshrined that right with the First Amendment’s guarantee of an independent press. President Barack Obama could use the occasion to strike a major blow for transparency with one simple directive: He could tell the Federal Housing Finance Agency to drop its nonsensical claim that it doesn’t have to make Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac documents public, especially those concerning federal campaign contributions made by the two agencies in the years leading up to the economic meltdown of 2008.

Judicial Watch filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit last August after FHFA refused the watchdog group’s request for such documents. Officials at FHFA acknowledged having control of such documents, but said they weren’t obligated under the FOIA to release them. Fannie and Freddie were established as semi-independent

government-supported entities. But they went under FHFA control after taxpayers had to bail them out. It’s estimated that taxpayers are on the hook for at least $5.4 trillion in liabilities that resulted from bad mortgage investments by Fannie and Freddie.

During the past decade, members of Congress received more than $4.8 million in campaign contributions from Fannie and Freddie. The top 10 recipients: Sens. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., John Kerry, D-Mass., Robert Bennett, R-Utah, Kit Bond, R-Mo., Richard Shelby, R-Ala., and Jack Reed, D-R.I., and then-Sen. Obama, D-Ill., along with Reps. Spencer Bachus, R-Ala., Roy Blunt, R-Mo., and Paul Kanjorski, D-Pa. The retiring Dodd is chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, which regulates the mortgage industry.

Judicial Watch’s Tom Fitton said that “when it comes to Fannie and Freddie, the Obama administration is saying, in effect, ‘None of your business.’ Obama administration officials and their lawyers can argue until they are blue in the face that Fannie and Freddie are not federal agencies, but their reasoning is straight out of ‘Alice in Wonderland.’ There is nothing ambiguous about the government’s absolute control of Fannie and Freddie. Which raises the question: What does the Obama administration have to hide?”

That last question is important because Obama was the recipient of the second largest amount of Fannie and Freddie contributions even though he was only in the Senate for three years. A presidential declaration that all Fannie and Freddie documents are covered by the FOIA would indeed make Sunshine Week 2010 memorable.

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Staff Report

Staff Report

A daily newspaper covering San Francisco, San Mateo County and serving Alameda, Marin and Santa Clara counties.
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