Freddie Mac reshapes role of top lobbying position

As Freddie Mac searches for a successor to Mitch Delk, the powerful chief lobbyist who resigned last March in a fundraising scandal, the mortgage giant is redefining its top lobbying position, seeking to return it to a traditional government-affairs post lacking the broad influence over communications strategy that Delk had, sources familiar with the negotiations say.

The change reflects the growing influence of Hollis McLoughlin, who was hired in April to be chief of staff to Freddie Mac’s new CEO, Richard Syron. McLoughlin has assumed many of the responsibilities for strategy that once fell to Delk, sources say, and he has had a large roll in determining who will fill the scaled-back lobbying spot.

file photo
Dan Berger

Tim McBride, a DaimlerChrysler lobbyist, has emerged as a leading contender to succeed Delk. He is a friend of McLoughlin from when they both served in the presidential administration of George H.W. Bush, according to lobbyists with knowledge of the search. He is also a friend of Nels Olson, the headhunter at Korn/Ferry International who is leading the search.

One drawback to McBride is that he knows little about housing and banking, Freddie Mac’s bread and butter, and may take time to settle into the position.

Other candidates on Freddie’s short list have more experience in that area. Kurt Pfotenhauer of the Mortgage Bankers Association, Dan Berger of America’s Community Bankers, Joe Seidel at Credit Suisse First Boston and Terry Haines, a former staff director at the House Financial Services Committee and now a lobbyist at Alexander Strategy Group, have been named as potential hires.

Another leading contender is Matt Schlapp, the White House political director.

courtesy mortgage bankers
Kurt Pfotenhauer

All of those in the running have strong Republican credentials, having worked for the GOP either on the Hill or in an administration.

Freddie Mac has been looking for another Republican to succeed Delk after an election in which Republicans strengthened their majorities in both chambers and held on to the presidency. The company had been waiting to see the results of the election before naming a new chief lobbyist.

Clarke Camper, a Democrat and former aide to then-Rep. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), had been acting chief of the company’s lobbying team, but he left recently to run external affairs at GE Consumer Finance. Camper denied in published reports that he was leaving as part of an effort to rid Freddie Mac’s Washington office of Democrats, saying that the GE offer was too good to pass up.

But any departure of a Democratic lobbyist to make way for a Republican generates talk of the K Street Project, an initiative led by congressional Republicans to install Republicans in all the top lobbying spots on K Street.

The mortgage company’s decision to scale back the role of its chief lobbyist has taken some candidates out of the running. Mitch Bainwol, head of the Recording Industry Association of America and a former chief of staff to Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.), was considered at one point, a lobbyist familiar with the search said, but his name was dropped after the company opted to create a less powerful position.

McBride joined DaimlerChrysler in 1996, moving up the ranks to become head of its Washington office in September of last year. He was an aide to the president’s father both when he was president and when he was vice president, including a stint as assistant secretary for commerce.McLoughlin was assistant secretary of the treasury from 1989 to 1992.

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