Republicans launched a scathing attack on Barack Obama Monday for alleged hypocrisy after the Democratic White House contender took on John McCain over the US housing crisis.
McCain's campaign and the Republican National Committee (RNC) fastened on a Wall Street Journal report that said Jim Johnson, the mortgage executive leading Obama's vice presidential hunt, had received preferential home loans.
Following an Obama speech that ripped into McCain's economic platform, the Republican's chief economic adviser Doug Holtz-Eakin said the reported loans to Johnson from Countrywide Financial raised troubling questions.
"And I thought it was remarkable that Senator Obama could talk about housing, talk about ethics, and fail to mention that he entrusted the single most important decision in his campaign, the choice of the vice presidential running mate, to a gentlemen, Mr. Johnson, who benefited from preferential lending at Countrywide and state financial payouts," he told reporters.
Johnson is a former chief executive of government-chartered mortgage provider Fannie Mae, and is leading a three-member team investigating possible VP candidates for Obama.
Saturday's Wall Street Journal report did not suggest any illegality, but Countrywide has been the subject of angry attacks from Obama for giving its executives hefty payouts while seizing the homes of troubled borrowers.
Holtz-Eakin said that because of his involvement with Fannie Mae, Johnson was "thoroughly entangled in the subprime housing mess that Senator McCain has made proposals to address and which is plaguing so many American families."
In a memo, the Obama campaign shot back that the Wall Street Journal article had been "overblown and irrelevant," and had probed "what appear to be completely above-board transactions."
Accusing McCain of having no answer to the housing crisis, the memo said: "Americans know that we face a critical choice in this race -- and it isn't about the terms of an outside advisor's loans.
"This race is about leadership, and which candidate will crack down on fraudulent lenders and bring real relief to Americans struggling in the grip of the housing crisis," it said after Obama's economy speech in North Carolina.
But the RNC vied to broaden the row by highlighting a land deal in Chicago between Obama and Antoin "Tony" Rezko, who was convicted last week of using his political clout to demand kickbacks and win government contracts.
"It takes a lot of nerve for Barack Obama to stand before voters, speak to the rising costs hurting families, attack his opponent on the housing crisis, and completely ignore the fact that both he and his campaign leadership have enjoyed housing deals that no average North Carolinian would be able to access," RNC spokesman Alex Conant said.
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