Gretchen Morgenson of the New York Times has an important new book out on the role played by Fannie Mae in the mortgage meltdown, Reckless Endangerment. I hope to review the whole thing shortly, but I wanted to quote from a small section of the book:
Fannie Mae did not limit its outreach to politicians in need of photo ops or community organizers in need of money. The company also enlisted the aid of academics whose resarch papers on housing issues helped shape the policy debate that was so crucial to the preservation of Fannie's status quo. ...
Fannie Mae's financing of academic research on such a large scale meant that few housing experts were left to argue the other side of any debate involving the company. ...
One bank lobbyist was interested in hiring academics to write papers that might take a different point of view on housing issues. But most of the experts in the area had been co-opted by Fannie Mae. "I tried to find academics that would do research on these issues and Fannie had bought off all the academics in housing," the lobbyist said. "I had people say to me are you going to give me stipends for the next 20 years like Fannie will?"
The answer was no. The discussion was over.
That reminds me of why you might wish to send me money: because neither Fannie Mae nor any other big money special interest will. The interpretation of the causes of the mortgage meltdown that I came up with in 2007-2008 isn't the kind of spin that benefits any particular set of big money boys.
It's not necessarily that I'm so incredibly ethical that I would turn down their money. It's that no sensible special interest would try to buy me off.
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