Some believe that tighter regulation is the answer. I am skeptical of that because I know the extent to which the regulatory system is tied up in Fannie’s and Freddie’s political activities. I find it deeply troubling that Fannie and Freddie, essentially in receivership to the secretary of the Treasury today, continue to employ lobbyists and hand out campaign contributions to influence the legislative debate over their own futures. Fannie and Freddie paid out more than $170 million to lobbyists over the last decade — more than General Electric spent. Government departments cannot hire lobbyists or give money to campaigns — why should Fannie and Freddie, now wards of the government, be permitted to do so?
Those huge lobbying fees don't fully capture the political influence of the GSEs. Two politically well-connected former Fannie Mae CEOs come to mind, Franklin Raines, who was the head of President Clinton's Office of Management and Budget before returning to Fannie Mae as CEO, and James A. Johnson, the former Carter administration official and, until recently, the reported head of Barack Obama's running mate selection process.