Davis Death Watch Begins… Now!

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A half dozen news outlets have the story today of the dirty dealing of John McCain’s campaign manager, Rick Davis. It appears Freddie Mac kept Davis’ firm, Davis Manafort, on contract to the tune of $15,000 a month up until Freddie was bailed out by the federal government and its lobbying contracts were forcibly dissolved.

What did Davis and his firm do for Freddie? Nothing. He was kept around explicitly because of his proximity to McCain.

Newsweek explains that after Davis’ arrangement with the Homeownership Alliance, a lobbying group funded by Freddie and Fannie that was headed by Davis and fought for less regulation, was nixed, Davis went to Freddie to get more cash.

Davis himself approached Freddie Mac in 2006 and asked for a new consulting arrangement that would allow his firm to continue to be paid. The arrangement was approved by Hollis McLoughlin, Freddie Mac’s senior vice president for external relations, because “[Davis] was John McCain’s campaign manager and it was felt you couldn’t say no,” said one of the sources.

It appears Davis got paid exclusively because of his connections to McCain, who was widely perceived as running for president in a few short years. He didn’t do any actual work to earn the $15,000 a month. Again, Newsweek:

Freddie Mac has had no contact with Davis Manafort other than receiving monthly invoices from the firm and paying them.

The account is bolstered by the New York Times:

[Sources] said they did not recall Mr. Davis’s doing much substantive work for the company in return for the money, other than to 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 his close ties to Mr. McCain, the Republican presidential nominee, who by 2006 was widely expected to run again for the White House.

Oh, and the Times makes sure to note:

No one at Davis Manafort other than Mr. Davis was involved in efforts on Freddie Mac’s behalf, the people familiar with the arrangement said.

The fact that Davis exploited his positions within McCain’s inner circle for financial gain is bad enough. But don’t forget that: (1) McCain has fingered lobbyists as central players in Fannie and Freddie’s failures and in the financial industry meltdown. Yet one of his top people very recently played that role. And (2) McCain was asked about Davis’ work with the Homeownership Alliance in an interview Sunday and responded that Davis “has had nothing to do with it since.” That’s false. Either McCain was lying or Davis lied to McCain.

So… Davis gets fired when?

DOES IT FEEL LIKE POLITICS IS AT A BREAKING POINT?

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It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

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We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

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Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

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