POLITICS
10/29/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Freddie Mac Money Trail Catches Up With McCain

Few advisers in John McCain's inner circle inspire more loyalty from him than campaign manager Rick Davis. McCain and his wife, Cindy, credit the shrewd, and sometimes volatile, Republican insider with rescuing the campaign last year when it was out of money and on the verge of collapse. As a result, McCain has always defended him--even when faced with tough questions about the foreign lobbying clients of Davis's high-powered consulting firm. "Rick is a friend, and I trust him," McCain told NEWSWEEK last year.

Last week, though, McCain's trust in Davis was tested again amid disclosures that Freddie Mac, the troubled mortgage giant that was recently placed under federal conservatorship, paid his campaign manager's firm $15,000 a month between 2006 and August 2008. As the mortgage crisis has escalated, almost any association with Freddie Mac or Fannie Mae has become politically toxic. But the payments to Davis's firm, Davis Manafort, are especially problematic because he requested the consulting retainer in 2006--and then did barely any work for the fees, according to two sources familiar with the arrangement who asked not to be identified discussing Freddie Mac business. Aside from attending a few breakfasts and a political-action-committee meeting with Democratic strategist Paul Begala (another Freddie consultant), Davis did "zero" for the housing firm, one of the sources said. Freddie Mac also had no dealings with the lobbying firm beyond paying monthly invoices--but it agreed to the arrangement because of Davis's close relationship with McCain, the source said, which led top executives to conclude "you couldn't say no."

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