Obama Administration Tells Court Government-Run Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac Not Subject to Open Records FOIA Law
MARCH 09, 2010
Judicial Watch, the public interest group that investigates and prosecutes government corruption, announced today that it has filed a new motion in its Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) that would force the Obama administration to release documents related to political contributions made by the mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. According to the FHFA, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac might possess documents responsive to Judicial Watch’s initial 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.
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 a recent 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.”
According to Judicial Watch’s motion filed on March 5, 2009, Fannie and Freddie are no longer private enterprises, and therefore their records are subject to FOIA law:
“At issue in this Freedom of Information Act (‘FOIA’) lawsuit is whether FHFA, the federal agency that has custody and control of the records of Federal National Mortgage Association (‘Fannie Mae’) and Federal Home Loan Mortgage Company (‘Freddie Mac’), must comply with a FOIA request for records relating to those previously independent entities. Until they were seized by FHFA in September 2008, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were private corporations with independent directors, officers, and shareholders. Since that time, FHFA, a federal agency subject to FOIA, has assumed full legal custody and control of the records of these previously independent entities. Hence, these records are subject to FOIA like any other agency records.”
“Apparently, American taxpayers are paying the tab for the collapse of Fannie and Freddie, but are not allowed to ask any questions about why it happened. When it comes to Fannie and Freddie, the Obama administration is saying, in effect, ‘None of your business,’” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “Obama administration officials and their lawyers can argue until they are blue in the face that Fannie and Freddie are not federal agencies, but their reasoning is straight out of Alice in Wonderland. There is nothing ambiguous about the government’s absolute control of Fannie and Freddie. Which raises the question: What does the Obama administration have to hide?”
According to a review of the top recipients of Fannie and Freddie campaign contributions from 1989 through 2008, President Obama is second on the list, sandwiched between Democratic Senators Chris Dodd (first) and Senator John Kerry (third). The president achieved this ranking during his relatively brief three-year stint in the U.S. Senate.
“Judicial Watch’s effort to open up Fannie and Freddie to public scrutiny as the law requires is not just about political corruption — it also about accountability. Largely through Freddie and Fannie, the Obama administration essentially has taken government control of the United States mortgage market and its attendant liabilities. This unprecedented takeover of the private sector is being executed by government entities that the Obama administration says are not subject to any open records request. Judicial Watch’s FOIA lawsuit is the only litigation that stands against this massive government abuse and secrecy,” continued Fitton.