CLEARWATER, Florida (AFP) — The lobbying firm owned by John McCain's campaign manager, Rick Davis, accepted half a million dollars from stricken mortgage giant Freddie Mac, reports said Wednesday.
The New York Times, quoting anonymous sources, reported that Davis Manafort, run by Davis, was paid 15,000 dollars a month by Freddie Mac from 2005 until as late as last month, adding up the payments to a total of 500,000 dollars.
Davis has said he took leave from his company in 2006. But he remains a shareholder and receives dividends.
According to The New York Times, Freddie Mac continued to pay the company, believing that Davis, as McCain's campaign manager, would be in a good position if his boss were elected to the White House.
Newsweek magazine also reported that Davis had received some two million dollars from 2000 to the end of 2005 as the head of Homeownership Alliance, a lobby group set up by Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae to protect their status.
Freddie Mac, and Fannie Mae, which together held about 40 percent of the housing market worth some 5.4 trillion dollars, were both taken over by the government on September 7 when it stepped in to try to halt a meltdown of the mortgage market.
David Donnelly, director of the independent watchdog Campaign Money Watch, told the Huffington Post website: "John McCain's campaign manager and Freddie Mac essentially had a secret half a million dollar lay-a-way plan.
"For almost three years, they made secret, monthly payments of 15,000 dollars to Rick Davis for apparently no other work than for him to provide special access to a future McCain White House in exchange."
The McCain campaign has vigorously denied reports that Davis was involved with Freddie Mac, and the Republican candidate, who has vowed to end the days of lobbyists in Washington, also said in an interview with CNBC that Davis had no further ties to his company.
The campaign for Democrat White house hopeful Barack Obama urged the McCain campaign to come clean about the extent of Davis's ties to Freddie Mac.
"It is now clear that both John McCain and Rick Davis did not tell the truth about Davis's continuing financial relationship with Freddie Mac," said Obama campaign communications director Dan Pfeiffer said in a statement.
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