With Congress set to weigh in on the Federal Reserve and Treasury Department’s plan to rescue Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, the increase in political contributions by the two corporations’ political action committees is receiving extra attention. Specifically, over the last two congressional cycles, PACs for both groups, which started donating in 2004, have contributed a combined $1,842,297 to federal candidates, according to data gathered by the Center for Responsive Politics.
Freddie and Fannie political spending takes many forms: The 2005 Center for Public Integrity PowerTrips investigation highlighted instances of Freddie and Fannie-sponsored travel in an examination of five-and-a-half years of congressional documents.
The Center found that during the period between January 1, 2000, and June 30, 2005, Freddie Mac paid $16,939.52 for 11 congressional staff trips. Fannie Mae nearly doubled that total, picking up the tab for 21 trips at a combined fee of $32,643.62.
Freddie Mac’s big-spending ways have already come in for some scrutiny. In 2006 the corporation agreed to pay a record $3.8 million in settlement fines for violating federal election law after channeling money into the campaigns of more than 50 congressional members. While the Federal Election Commission found those actions illegal, both Freddie and Fannie have continued to legally make sizable contributions to members of Congress.
In the 2008 cycle, Fannie Mae PAC has contributed a total of $617,900 to congressional members; Freddie PAC gave $202,997 to members of Congress. More than half of that total — $489,998 — was designated for persons in leadership positions or who sit on either the House Financial Services Committee or the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs.