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Obama mortgage regulator hires current mortgage lobbyist

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Politics,Beltway Confidential,Timothy P. Carney,Finance and Banking,Lobbying

The Federal Housing Finance Agency has hired Charles Landgraf, who appears to be a currently registered lobbyist, as an adviser to help form policy on a product involved in mortgage lending called “force-place insurance.” Landgraf lobbies for a major bank on that exact issue.

This seems to clash with ethics rules and President Obama’s rhetoric on keeping lobbyists out of policymaking jobs.

The FHFA regulates the government-sponsored (and currently, government-owned) mortgage backers Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Force-place insurance is a way for banks to require borrowers to hold home insurance. You don’t really need to know what it is for the sake of this article. You just need to know that it’s a matter that involves regulations and Fannie & Freddie.

American Banker quotes an FHFA spokesman as saying “Mr. Landgraf provides technical expertise to FHFA’s Office of General Counsel on conservatorship issues.” The publication paraphrases multiple sources as saying “Landgraf has played a key early role in coordinating Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac’s actions on force-placed insurance. ..."

Landgraf is a longtime housing-finance lobbyist at the storied K Street firm Arnold & Porter. Despite Obama’s declarations that he has “excluded lobbyists from policymaking jobs,” at least 55 former registered lobbyists have held senior positions in the Obama administration.

But Landgraf, it appears, isn’t a former lobbyist. He seems to be currently lobbying. In the latest lobbying filing by Lloyds of London bank, Landgraf is listed as lobbying on “lender-placed insurance,” which American Banker says is another name for force-placed insurance.

Obama’s first-day executive order requires all lobbyists-turned-appointees to swear not to “participate in any particular matter on which I lobbied within the 2 years before the date of my appointment.” Not only is Landgraf working on an issue on which he has lobbied recently, he appears to be working on an issue on which he currently lobbies. Presumably, his status as an outside consultant exempts him from the lobbying rules.

Here’s the American Banker story.

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