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Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The Jim Johnson/Obama Debacle-- UPDATED and Bumped- Johnson Steps Down

[Updated and Bumped] I didn't feel like explaining the whole thing over again, so the update is that Jim Johnson has just stepped down from the Obama campaign vetting process according to Top Of The Ticket.

Original post- Dated 6/10/08

I am behind on this one so, long story short, one of the men Barack Obama has working for him (unpaid) to vet vice presidential candidates, has connections to Countrywide Financial.

From ABC's Political Punch:

What's the big deal about Obama campaign fundraiser/Vice President selection committee member Jim Johnson getting $7 million in loans from Countrywide Financial Corp.? (As the Wall Street Journal reported Saturday and the New York Sun's Josh Gerstein followed up on.).

Mortgages with rates below market averages, including "a $5 million home equity line of credit against a house in Ketchum, Idaho, a 5.25% loan of $1.3 million for a home in Palm Desert, Calif., and a 3.875% loan of $971,650 for a home in Washington, D.C." Mortgages set up through an informal program for friends of the company's CEO, Angelo Mozilo.

The problem is, Obama critics say, perception and hypocrisy. Obama had railed against Countrywide and Mozilo, and his campaign had impugned Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-NY, for taking money from Countrywide lobbyists and for allowing a senior campaign adviser to simultaneously do work for Countrywide.


Campaigning in Pennsylvania in March, Sen. Barack Obama, D-Illinois, assailed mortgage giant Countrywide Financial Corp., for embodying the economic and political culture dominated by corporate lobbyists and insiders.

"Countrywide Financial," Obama said. (Watch HERE.) "This is a company that is as responsible as any firm in the country for the housing crisis we're facing today. When Countrywide Financial was sold a few months ago, its top two executives got a combined $19 million. These are the folks who are responsible for infecting the economy and helping to create a home foreclosure crisis….They get a $19 million bonus while people are at risk of losing their home. What's wrong with this picture?"

("They" are Mozilo and the president of Countrywide, David Sambol.)

Around that time the Obama campaign also criticized Clinton for affiliations with Countrywide.

In the Washington Post: "Obama aides also said Clinton is in no position to stiffen oversight after taking contributions from mortgage industry lobbyists, including funds from representatives of Countrywide, which has been at the center of the mortgage meltdown. 'If we're really going to crack down on the practices that caused the credit and housing crises, we're going to need a leader who doesn't owe these industries any favors,' campaign manager David Plouffe said."

On MSNBC, senior Obama strategist David Axelrod criticized how senior Clinton strategist Mark Penn had consulted for Countrywide. "She's stuck him with him through the revelation that his firm was working for Blackwater and working for Countrywide," Ax said (watch HERE.) "And, you know, so, it’s kind of stunning. Remember that the embassy said they weren't sure whether he was there as a representative of his firm or a representative of Senator Clinton. I mean, I think there are issues associated with this. I'm not - you (Keith Olbermann) can use the word hypocrisy, but there are certainly questions that arise from this."

Obama's answer, via Youtube (H/T The Politico)

Johnson doesn't "work" for him...ok, then what is the "vetting" process include if not work? (Either paid or unpaid)

Political Punch's Jake Tapper's response:

Did I read that correctly? Did Obama claim that Johnson and Holder -- two of the three people heading up his VP search committee -- aren't "work"ing for him?

I suppose that's because they're unpaid, but my stars, that's a lot of high-level, time-consuming sensitive effort to not be considered "working" for Sen. Obama.

Ed Morrisey takes the comments made by Obama one by one and rips them apart.

Just a couple examples, then you can go read the whole thing over at Hot Air.

I am not vetting my VP Search Committee for their mortgages. You’re going to have to direct – it becomes sort of a – this is a game that can be played – everybody, who is tangentially related to our campaign, I think, is going to have a whole host of relationships.

“Tangentially related”? He asked Johnson to head up the search committee for his running mate. How much of a tangent is that? Isn’t the VP candidate rather central to the ticket and the election process? Obama makes it sound like Johnson is his caterer.


So these aren’t folks who are working for me,

Yes, they are working for you, Senator. You’re just not paying them to do it, but you hired them nonetheless.


And ultimately, my assumption is that this is a discrete task that they are going to be performing for me over the next two months.

Ultimately, our assumption is that you will hire people for “discrete tasks” in your administration in the same way you hire them for your campaign. Ultimately, we assume that when you complain about others with connections to subprime lenders and corruption that you will avoid those connections yourself. Otherwise, we assume you are a hypocrite who spouts off about “hope and change” as a way to distract people from the fact that you have no experience for the job you seek.

Read the rest, Ed reams him out pretty good for his hypocrisy.

John McCain's campaign statement:

“It’s preposterous for Senator Obama to claim that the leader of his VP selection committee isn’t working for him. Barack Obama has castigated Countrywide Financial, but now that Jim Johnson has been exposed for taking sweetheart deals from Countrywide’s CEO - Obama is in a state of denial. It’s that brand of weak leadership and hypocrisy that shows why Barack Obama has no record of taking courageous stands or making change in Washington.”

Republican National Committee's statement:

"It takes a lot of nerve for Barack Obama to stand before voters, speak
to the rising costs hurting families, attack his opponent on the housingcrisis, and completely ignore the fact that both he and his campaignleadership have enjoyed housing deals that no average NorthCarolinian would be able to access. Obama's failure to address the scandals within his own campaign and instead spend his time attacking others is the sort of old politics that will be rejected bythe American people. Voters deserve straight talk from their leaders - not recycled rhetoric that ducks serious questions."

More on the story found here.

A little tidbit mentioned on the blogs for McCain website:

NOTE: Johnson Is Also A Bundler For Obama's Presidential Campaign And
Has Committed To Raising $100,000 To $200,000. -Obama For America Web

As I mentioned in my last piece about public financing and Obama breaking his campaign pledges already...Change we can believe in is nothing more than a campaign slogan for Barack Obama who firmly believes in criticizing others, yet gets indignant when he is found to be doing the same things they are.

Note to Obama- Some people call that HYPOCRISY- perhaps you need to look the word up in the dictionary.

Ok, so it wasn't a long story short it was a long story