A provision in the recently passed Senate lobbying reform bill calls for government-sponsored enterprises to disclose specific information on their lobbying activities -- including salaries and consulting fees -- that some secondary market entities may find annoying.
Officials at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac say they support any new regulations requiring further disclosure. The bill is expected to come up before the House Judiciary Committee by late summer or early fall.
Although GSEs are subject to current lobbying disclosure laws, the new provision, initiated by Sen. Paul Simon, D-Ill., would require a substantial increase in the amount of disclosure information required. The bill, S. 349, has provisions calling for more information applying specifically to Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and Sallie Mae. They require:
* salaries lists;
* present values of stock options granted;
* benefits paid for all officers and board members;
* a complete, itemized expenditures list of GSE salaries and overhead on in-house staff, as well as lists of retainers for independent consultants not only for defined lobbying, but also for any effort to encourage others to lobby on its behalf;
* all grass-roots organizing;
* all public relations, media consultation and image advertising;
* a description of any lobbying" of the executive branch or Congress by employees, board members or officers; and
* a list of all employees who, within five years preceding the report, were employed in any capacity by Congress or by the federal government, as well as their current salaries.
The Senate wants GSE lobbying activities made public because of data it acquired that show these organizations are spending millions of dollars trying to influence policies that affect them. Although the bill provisions wouldn't prevent any GSE lobbying activity, lawmakers believe that the additional attention they will receive from disclosures would deter excessive attempts at influencing policies.
"These are government-created entities, created to serve a public purpose," said Brian Kennedy, staff director and chief counsel of Subcommittee on Employment and Productivity. "And they owe a special obligation to disclose when they're spending money [that is] not for the public purpose, but for trying to influence the policies that affect them."
Kennedy, a Simon aide, pointed toward an "intense" lobbying effort that saw millions spent by the Student Loan Marketing Association and state guaranty agencies to thwart a government decision to go to a direct student loan plan.
The legislation was passed in the Senate May 6 by an overwhelming 95-2 margin. There is no GSE provision in the House bill, but Kennedy said the Senate would fight to have it added.
But even if the legislation passes, some openly question whether it will have far-reaching effects.
"I can't see it as a material factor," said one secondary market analyst. "I don't think their [lobbying] efforts are really that big. They have other avenues and not all of them show up through their own lobbyists, they get a lot of help. There is tremendous support from other industry groups -- the Realtors, mortgage bankers and other groups that greatly benefit from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac's existence.
"They also have higher-level contacts," he added. "High-level Fannie officials are very active in political circles -- I can't see them losing any power or access. The reason they exist is that they help make it easier for people to get a mortgage, and as long as they keep doing that, they don't have to worry about lobbying this congressman or that congressman."