With each party's front-runners for President looking more secure, speculation about potential vice presidential candidates burgeoned last week.

The most intriguing rumor has Fannie Mae chairman Franklin D. Raines, former Office of Management and Budget director under President Clinton, running on the Democratic ticket with Al Gore.

Mr. Raines - the consummate well-connected Washingtonian, former investment banker, and African-American role model - would seem a strong candidate. But he would have to overcome the bad press last week prompted by a Department of Housing and Urban Development report that Fannie Mae's policies have raised the costs and decreased the availability of mortgages for blacks.

"I am confident that Franklin Raines is fully committed to being chairman of Fannie Mae for a long time," a Fannie Mae spokesman said.

House Banking Committee Chairman Jim Leach, speaking last week to a group of Northwestern University alumni here, said the leading candidate for Gore's No. 2 may be Energy Secretary Bill Richardson. Mr. Richardson is the highest-ranking Hispanic in the Clinton administration and a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations; he also won election to seven terms as a congressman from New Mexico.

On the Republican side, Rep. Leach referred several times to a George W. Bush-John McCain ticket this fall. Unlikely that Sen. McCain would want to be vice president after the vitriolic primary campaign? Well, some argue, if Gov. Bush's father, George Bush, and Ronald Reagan could let bygones be bygones in 1980, or if JFK and LBJ could share the spotlight in 1960, why couldn't Gov. Bush and Sen. McCain put their differences aside?

Fat chance, say supporters of Elizabeth H. Dole.

The Treasury Department has hired Robert E. Litan, vice president and director of economic studies at the Brookings Institution, and former Office of Thrift Supervision Director Nicolas P. Retsinas to do one of the community reinvestment studies required by the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act.Under the law, the Treasury has until March 15 to prepare a statistical overview of lending under the Community Reinvestment Act. Mr. Litan said this preliminary report would be a "baseline" for a bigger Treasury report due in November 2001 on the adequacy of CRA for communities and the impact of Gramm-Leach-Bliley on the reinvestment law. (Meanwhile, the Federal Reserve Board next week is supposed to deliver a report on the default rates and profitability of CRA loans.)

Mr. Litan said he and Mr. Retsinas, who is director of the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University, are keenly aware of the politics that surrounded the CRA-related provisions of Gramm-Leach-Bliley last year. "There was a little bit of interest in CRA," he said. "We are taking it very seriously."

The American Insurance Association has snagged Natalie Nguyen from the House Banking Committee. Ms. Nguyen, who has been a House Banking lawyer for five years, starts today as assistant vice president for federal affairs and will help the property and casualty insurers trade group lobby on privacy rules and other issues arising from the new law.

Legal maneuvers: C. Dawn Causey has resigned as general counsel of America's Community Bankers. Her last day was Friday. President Diane M. Casey said the thrift trade group decided to outsource its chief legal tasks to a law firm, which has not been selected.The Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight has hired Alfred M. Pollard to be general counsel. He starts today. Mr. Pollard resigned as chief lobbyist for the Financial Services Roundtable in late September.

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