James A. Johnson (politics)

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James A. Johnson (born December 24, 1943) is a United States Democratic Party political figure, and the former CEO of Fannie Mae. He was the campaign manager for Walter Mondale's failed 1984 presidential bid and chaired the vice presidential selection committee for the presidential campaign of John Kerry. He briefly led the vice-presidential selection process for the 2008 Democratic presidential nominee, Senator Barack Obama.

Early life and education

Johnson was born in Benson, Minnesota.[1] He is the son of A. I. Johnson, who was a member of the Minnesota House of Representatives from 1941 to 1958, and who served as speaker of the house in 1955 and 1957.[1]

Johnson received a B.A. in political science from the University of Minnesota in 1966, and a Master of Public Affairs degree from the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University in 1968.[1]

Early career

Johnson began his career as a faculty member at Princeton University.[2] Later he was a staff member in the United States Senate. He was also director of public affairs at the Dayton-Hudson Corporation (now Target Corporation).

Johnson worked in the unsuccessful presidential campaigns of Eugene McCarthy in 1968, and George McGovern and 1972.[1]

From 1977 to 1981 he was executive assistant to Vice President Walter Mondale during the entire Carter Administration.

In 1981, Johnson co-founded Public Strategies, a private consulting firm, with diplomat Richard Holbrooke.[3] He headed the firm until 1985. During that time, he was the campaign manager for Walter Mondale's failed 1984 presidential bid. From 1985 to 1990, he was a managing director with Lehman Brothers.

Fannie Mae

In 1990, Johnson became vice chairman of Fannie Mae, or the Federal National Mortgage Association, a quasi-public organization that guarantees mortgages for millions of American homeowners.[3] In 1991, he was appointed chairman and chief executive officer of Fannie Mae,[3] a position he held until 1998.

An Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight (OFHEO) report[4] from September 2004 found that, during Johnson's tenure as CEO, Fannie Mae had improperly deferred $200 million in expenses. This enabled top executives, including Johnson and his successor, Franklin Raines, to receive substantial bonuses in 1998.[5] A 2006 OFHEO report[6] found that Fannie Mae had substantially under-reported Johnson's compensation. Originally reported as $6–7 million, Johnson actually received approximately $21 million.

In the 2011 book Reckless Endangerment: How Outsized Ambition, Greed and Corruption Led to Economic Armageddon, authors Gretchen Morgenson and Joshua Rosner wrote that Johnson was one of the key figures responsible for the late-2000s financial crisis. Morgenson described him in an NPR interview as "corporate America's founding father of regulation manipulation".[7] Also according to Morgenson, he changed Fannie's executive compensation plan to be based on volume not quality and earned over $200 Million dollars while working at Fannie Mae.

Post-Fannie Mae career

Since 2001, Johnson has been vice chairman of the private banking firm Perseus LLC.

Johnson chaired the vice presidential selection committee for the unsuccessful 2004 presidential campaign of John Kerry. There was speculation that, had Kerry won, Johnson might have been named Kerry's chief of staff, or Secretary of the Treasury.[1]

Association with Barack Obama

Johnson has been a strong supporter of Barack Obama since at least 2004. Johnson gave $1,000 to Obama's Senate campaign in 2004. In 2008 he donated the maximum allowed $4,600 to Obama's presidential campaign.[8] In addition, Johnson was a bundler for the Obama campaign, raising between $200,000 and $500,000.[9] He also participated in Obama campaign efforts to recruit former Clinton supporters.[10]

On June 4, 2008, Obama announced the formation of a three-person committee to vet vice presidential candidates, including Johnson.[11] However, Johnson soon became a source of controversy when it was reported that he had received $7 million in cut-rate mortgage loans directly from Angelo Mozilo, the CEO of Countrywide Financial, a company implicated in the U.S. subprime mortgage crisis.[12] Although he was not accused of any wrongdoing and was initially defended by Obama on the grounds that he was simply an unpaid volunteer, Johnson announced he would step down from the vice-presidential vetting position on June 11, 2008, in order to avoid being a distraction to Obama's campaign.[13]

On September 19, 2008, the John McCain campaign released an ad critical of Obama which linked him to Johnson, stating that "Fannie cooked the books and Johnson made millions. Then Obama asked him to pick his VP."[14]

Other memberships

Johnson has been a board member of Goldman Sachs, Gannett Company, Inc., KB Home, Target Corporation, Temple-Inland, and a former director of UnitedHealth Group.

Johnson has also served as chairman of both the Kennedy Center for the Arts (1996–2004) and the Brookings Institution (1994–2003). He is also a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Friends of Bilderberg, the Council on Foreign Relations, and the Trilateral Commission. He is a member of the Steering Committee of the Bilderberg Group.[15]

Honors and accolades

In 1994, Johnson received the Honor Award from the National Building Museum for his contributions to the U.S.'s building heritage during his tenure at Fannie Mae.[16]

In 1997, Johnson received an Honorary Doctor of Laws from Colby College, in 1999 he received an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from Howard University, and in 2002, he received another Doctor of Laws from Skidmore College.[2]

Personal life

Johnson was previously married to Maxine Issacs, who served as press secretary for Walter Mondale during his 1984 election campaign. They have been separated as of 2010. [17] [3]

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 Obama turns to trusted political insider Jim Johnson for key campaign role, Doug Grow, MinnPost.com, 2008-06-03
  2. 2.0 2.1 http://www.ustreas.gov/offices/domestic-finance/usps/pdf/johnson.pdf
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 A Medici With Your Money, Matthew Cooper, Slate, February 23, 1997
  4. Report of Findings to Date - Special Examination of Fannie Mae
  5. High Pay at Fannie Mae For the Well-Connected, Washington post, 23 December 2004
  6. Report of the Special Examination of Fannie Mae, May 2006
  7. How 'Reckless' Greed Contributed to Financial Crisis, NPR, May 24, 2011
  8. Donna Martin also donated 4M. OpenSecrets.com, by the Center for Responsive Politics
  9. Center for Responsive Politics, September 2008
  10. http://www.politico.com/blogs/bensmith/0908/Johnson_to_lead_Obama_briefing.html
  11. "Obama Picks Caroline Kennedy, 2 Others for VP Search (Update2)". Bloomberg. June 4, 2008.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  12. Fannie Mae and Barney Frank's Roles in the Financial Meltdown, Huffington Post, 5/26/2011
  13. [1][dead link]
  14. McCain Attacks Obama on Ties to Former Fannie Mae CEOs, Mary Lu Carnevale, The Wall Street Journal, September 19, 2008
  15. "Steering Committee". bilderbergmeetings.org. Bilderberg Group. Retrieved 2014-02-08.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  16. http://www.nbm.org/support-us/awards_honors/honor-award/
  17. "After 25 years of marriage, Washington power couple Maxine Isaacs and Jim Johnson separate". The Washington Post. Retrieved 3 August 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links