Donilon Double Dips

Top Obama aide Tom Donilon receives taxpayer salary plus six-figure pension from bailout recipient Fannie Mae, records show

June 27, 2012

National Security Adviser Tom Donilon collected more than $148,000 in pension payments from bailed out mortgage giant Fannie Mae in 2011, on top of his White House salary of $172,200, according to a Free Beacon analysis of White House personal financial disclosure forms.

Donilon netted more than $320,000 in income in 2011 between the two taxpayer-funded sources, including monthly payments totaling $12,391 as part of Fannie Mae’s "Executive Pension" and "Qualified Benefit" plans, the documents show.

"Most taxpayers are struggling to make ends meet. Yet, Mr. Donilon is still profiting from his work during the Fannie Mae buildup of the housing bubble that led to a recession and massive taxpayer bailouts," said Sen. Jim DeMint (R., S.C.) in a statement to the Washington Free Beacon.

"We find it fairly unsurprising an Obama adviser is double-dipping the public coffers," said Mattie Duppler, government affairs manager at American for Tax Reform. "After all, after trillion-dollar deficits for four years running, what's a few hundred thousand?"

The optics of the arrangement were especially troubling, Duppler added, given that Donilon’s taxpayer-funded income is "three times what the average middle class taxpayer in making."

A spokesperson for the National Security Council did not respond to questions about whether Donilon is still receiving Fannie Mae pension payments as of this year, and whether Donilon has participated in any discussions about the transfer of federal funds to Fannie Mae.

Donilon, who some suspect to be the primary source of controversial leaks of classified information to reporters, worked as a registered lobbyist for Fannie Mae from 1999 to 2005.

The firm played a significant role in the housing crisis of 2007, and the government-backed lender has since been bailed out with more than $120 billion in taxpayer funds. The total long-term costs of bailing out Fannie Mae and its affiliate entity Freddie Mac could range from about $400 billion to $1 trillion, according to independent estimates.

In November of 2011, as Donilon was continuing to collect pension payments from Fannie Mae, the lender requested another $8 billion in bailout funds to sustain ongoing losses.

The Obama administration recently proposed a controversial mortgage write-down plan that could require more than $100 billion in additional taxpayer funding for the mortgage giants.

Donilon is one of the wealthiest members of the Obama administration, with assets worth between $5.2 million and $32.5 million, according to personal financial disclosure forms.

The White House paid him a maximum salary of $172,200 in 2011—small potatoes compared with the $3.9 million he made in his previous position as a partner at O’Melveny & Myers LLP, where his clients included financial giants such as Citigroup and Goldman Sachs.

Donilon’s White House salary is also less than 10 percent of the $1.8 million in bonus packages he received from Fannie Mae before his departure in 2005.

Donilon’s role at Fannie as executive vice president for law and policy came under scrutiny in a 2006 report by the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight, which found that Fannie Mae lobbyists had sought to discredit federal regulators looking into the firm’s financial practices.

While Donilon was never accused of any wrongdoing, Fannie Mae was forced to pay a $400 million settlement to the federal government over charges the company inaccurately reported its earnings from 1998 to 2004.

A large portion of Donilon’s assets consists of municipal bond holdings worth between $3.6 million and $8.3 million.

Such investments are often exempt from federal and state taxes.

President Obama pledged, "Lobbyists won’t find a job in my White House" as a candidate in 2008—a claim the non-partisan watchdog website has rated a "promise broken."

The president signed an executive order banning lobbyists from his administration, but the White House has approved a number of "waivers" to the rule. Donilon is one of at least 40 former lobbyists hired by the Obama administration since 2009, and was also a member of the Obama-Biden transition team. His name, however, does not appear on the list of White House officials granted waivers from the White House ethics pledge.

The controversy surrounding Donilon goes beyond his ties to Fannie Mae. Donilon has more experience in politics than he does in foreign policy, having worked on the presidential campaigns of Jimmy Carter, Walter Mondale, and Joe Biden, Politico noted in 2010.

Donilon’s predecessor Jim Jones once criticized Donilon for having "no credibility with the military," according to Bob Woodward’s Obama’s Wars (2010). Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates reportedly said Donilon would be a "disaster" as national security adviser.

Donilon has also come under increased scrutiny as a potential culprit in the leak of highly classified national security information to reporters. He is quoted often in New York Times reporter David Sanger’s book Confront and Conceal: Obama’s Secrets Wars and Surprising Use of American Power, which reveals previously classified information about President Obama’s handling of the global war on terror.

Sanger’s book also reveals that Gates rebuked Donilon for divulging details to the press regarding the Special Forces raid that killed Osama bin Laden, reportedly telling the National Security Adviser to "shut the fuck up."

Top lawmakers have called for an investigation into the leaks, which some say were meant to bolster the president’s foreign policy credentials in an election year. Democratic analyst Pat Caddell recently told Fox News’ Sean Hannity he thought Donilon was the source of the leaks.

"We owe it to the American people to get to the bottom of this national security threat," said DeMint, who was one of 31 Senators to sign a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder demanding a special counsel to investigate the leaks.

Tom Ricks of Foreign Policy magazine also suggested Donilon is in trouble, and could soon be ousted from his post. "If he's lucky, I think the national security adviser lasts until January," Ricks wrote last week.

Asked to comment on these allegations, National Security Council (NSC) spokesman Tommy Vietor referred the Free Beacon to President Obama’s remarks at a June 8 press conference.

"My attitude has been zero tolerance for these kinds of leaks and speculation," the president told reporters. "If we can root out folks who have leaked, they will suffer consequences."

"The notion that my White House would purposefully release classified national security information is offensive," Obama added.

Vietor said characterizing Donilon as someone with an extensive history as a campaign operative and lobbyist and comparatively little foreign policy experience was "laughably inaccurate."