Posted on Monday, February 14, 2011
Judicial Watch, the public interest group that investigates and prosecutes government corruption, announced today that it has filed an appeal with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in its lawsuit against the Obama Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) seeking records related to political contributions made by the mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
According to the FHFA, the agency might possess documents responsive to Judicial Watch’s FOIA request; however, the agency claims it is not obligated to release such documents to the public. Judicial Watch maintains that since Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are now wholly operated by the federal government they are subject to FOIA law:
“…the boards of both Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac accepted conservatorship by the FHFA with the full knowledge that the FHFA would obtain all rights, titles, powers, and privileges of the enterprises, including legal title to their books and records. Since that time, the FHFA, a federal agency subject to FOIA, has had full legal custody and control over all of the records of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
“Because the FHFA obtained these records and has exercised full legal control over them since it placed Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac into conservatorship, the requested records became subject to FOIA just like any other agency records.”
Judicial Watch filed its original FOIA request on May 29, 2009. The FHFA acknowledged receipt of Judicial Watch’s FOIA request July 1, 2009. The agency claimed that while Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac might possess the requested documents, the FHFA was not obligated to release them under FOIA because the agency does not “control” them.
As noted in an Obama administration court filing: “…Any records created by or held in the custody of the Enterprises [Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac] reflecting their political campaign contributions or policies, stipulations and requirements concerning campaign contributions necessarily are private corporate documents. They are not ‘agency records’ subject to disclosure under FOIA.”
However, according to Judicial Watch’s appeal, Congress was clear in its intent and the agency had full control of the records at the time of Judicial Watch’s request: “In every meaningful way, the FHFA is lawfully in control of these records. There is nothing contingent, hypothetical, indefinite, or limiting about this plain statutory language vesting the FHFA with both legal custody and lawful control over the records.”
The District Court, while agreeing in large part with Judicial Watch’s legal argument, ruled that the FHFA did not ultimately control the records and therefore denied the American people access to the records.
Overall, members of Congress have received more than $4.8 million in political contributions from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac over the last ten years. According to OpenSecrets.org, from 1998 through 2008, the top ten recipients of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac’s political largess, are as follows: Senator Dodd (D-CT), then-Senator Obama (D-IL), Senator Kerry (D-MA), Senator Bennett (R-UT), Rep. Bachus (R-AL), Rep. Blunt (R-MO), Rep. Kanjorski (D-PA), Senator Bond (R-MO), Senator Shelby (R-AL), Senator Reed (D-RI). Senator Dodd, the top recipient of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac campaign contributions, was Chairman of the Senate Banking Committee responsible for regulating the mortgage industry. Notably, President Obama was a top recipient of campaign monies despite being in the Senate for only three years.
“The Obama administration has taken over the mortgage market through Fannie and Freddie. And not one document from these two monstrosities is subject to disclosure under our open records law? We hope the appellate court puts a stop to the Obama administration’s unprecedented secrecy,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “Fannie and Freddie used political contributions to protect themselves from being held accountable as the housing market was set up for collapse. Now, as a result, taxpayers are on the hook to Fannie and Freddie for at least $400 billion — and $5 trillion in mortgage liabilities. The American people deserve to know the full truth about the partnership between Fannie and Freddie and their allies on Capitol Hill.”
THE MORAL LIBERAL