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Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac wielded big clout in Washington

The mortgage giants used everything from lobbying to charity to maintain their special status.

SOURCE: Center for Responsive Politics/Rich Clabaugh–STAFF

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Mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac didn't just dominate the nation's $12 trillion home loan market, they were also masters of influence in Washington.

As government-sponsored enterprises, Fannie and Freddie owned or guaranteed some $5 trillion in residential mortgages – a cushion for creating two of the most extensive lobbying operations in Washington.

At its peak – last week, just before the Treasury Department announced a government takeover – the operations ranged from campaign contributions and outright lobbying to a grass-roots charitable giving operation that covered nearly every congressional district.

"They were the most powerful companies in the country, and literally controlled the Congress," Peter Wallison, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. "Congress would not do anything they did not want Congress to do – and that came through some very sophisticated political activities and public relations that made it very difficult to challenge them."

Since 1990, Freddie Mac has contributed more than $9.7 million to federal campaigns. Fannie Mae's political action committee chalked up more than $2.9 million since 2004, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Together, they spent some $7.4 million in lobbying in the first six months of 2008 alone.

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