Obama adviser Jim Johnson draws GOP flak over loans

Minnesota’s most direct connection to Barack Obama’s presidential campaign, Jim Johnson, who is known for staying behind the scenes, is making unwelcome headlines.

A Wall Street Journal article last week reported that Johnson received questionable loans at highly favorable rates from Countrywide Financial Corp. while Johnson headed Fannie Mae from 1990 to 1998.

Johnson, who grew up in Benson, Minn., and whose ties to Democratic politics go back to his days on the staff of Sen. Walter Mondale, is among three people vetting possible running mates for Obama. He served in a similar capacity for Mondale (1984) and John Kerry (2004).

Fannie Mae is the largest buyer of Countrywide’s mortgages, according to the Journal. Though the Journal article said it could not prove there was anything illegal in the loan deals, the Republican Party has seized on the story, claiming the loans represent the sort of business dealings Obama has attacked in his campaign.

Both Countrywide and Fannie have been at the center of the home mortgage scandals that have become huge campaign issues.

Johnson was not availale for comment to either the Wall Street Journal or MinnPost.

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