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Parsing The Mccain Campaign's Latest Davis Denial

Michael Goldfarb, who's found his true calling now as an official--as opposed to de facto--Republican flim flam artist, offers up the McCain campaign's rebuttal to this morning's NYT story about Rick Davis's ever-deepening ties to Freddie Mac. Goldfarb's statement really is a masterpiece of bluster and evasion. Let's look at it more closely.

It begins:

Today the New York Times launched its latest attack on this campaign in its capacity as an Obama advocacy organization. Let us be clear about what this story alleges: The New York Times charges that McCain-Palin 2008 campaign manager Rick Davis was paid by Freddie Mac until last month, contrary to previous reporting, as well as statements by this campaign and by Mr. Davis himself.

This is a nice bit of sleight of hand on Goldfarb's part. The NYT story doesn't allege that Davis himself was paid by Freddie Mac until last month; rather, it alleges that his firm--from which, as the NYT story notes, he's been on leave during the presidential campaign--was paid by Freddie Mac. Anyway, keep that in mind when you read Goldfarb's second graf:

In fact, the allegation is demonstrably false. As has been previously reported, Mr. Davis separated from his consulting firm, Davis Manafort, in 2006. As has been previously reported, Mr. Davis has seen no income from Davis Manafort since 2006. Zero. Mr. Davis has received no salary or compensation since 2006. Mr. Davis has received no profit or partner distributions from that firm on any basis -- weekly, bi-weekly, monthly, bi-monthly, quarterly, semi-annual or annual -- since 2006. Again, zero. Neither has Mr. Davis received any equity in the firm based on profits derived since his financial separation from Davis Manafort in 2006.

So Goldfarb is basically answering an allegation the Times story doesn't make. Indeed, the central allegation of the Times story is that McCain was either misinformed or was lying when he recently said that Davis's work with the mortgage giant ended in 2005 when it dissolved its Homeownership Alliance, of which Davis served as president (for the princely sum of $30,000 to $35,000 a month). As today's NYT story reports, after the Homeownership Alliance was disbanded, Davis went to Freddie Mac and asked to be put on a retainer, for $15,000 a month. Nowhere in Goldfarb's rebuttal does he address--or even acknowledge--that charge.

Which brings us to the final relevant portion of Goldfarb's rebuttal:

Further, and missing from the Times' reporting, Mr. Davis has never -- never -- been a lobbyist for either Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac. Mr. Davis has not served as a registered lobbyist since 2005.

That's true, but the NYT story doesn't allege that Davis was a lobbyist for Freddie Mac. Rather, the NYT reports that he was a "consultant." And that's actually a crucial--and, in this instance, damning--distinction, since, by serving as a consultant rather than as a lobbyist for Freddie Mac, Davis's firm didn't have to disclose its payments from Freddie Mac in federal lobbying reports (which is why we didn't know about them until some ticked-off Fannie and Freddie folks revealed them to the Times). In other words, it looks as if Davis was almost trying to hide the fact that he was getting paid by Freddie Mac.

Goldfarb ends his rebuttal by reprinting a McCain statement from 2006 calling for regulatory reform of Fannie and Freddie. But I think it's worth reminding the McCain campaign of another statement by its candidate--this one more pithy and more relevant to the situation it currently faces with Davis and his lobbying work. It was made by McCain in the wake of the Keating Five scandal and it's something he seems to have forgotten. Speaking of the scandal, McCain said:

"The thing I learned was that it's not only impropriety that counts, it's the appearance that is just as important."

And even Goldfarb would have to admit that Davis is causing the campaign all sorts of appearance problems these days.

P.S. My favorite line of Goldfarb's rebuttal may be this one:

The New York Times is trying to fill an ideological niche. It is a business decision, and one made under economic duress, as the New York Times is a failing business.

Project much?

--Jason Zengerle