Andrew Cuomo and Fannie and Freddie

How the youngest Housing and Urban Development secretary in history gave birth to the mortgage crisis

Two of Cuomo's aides who had also worked for his father, Howard Glaser and Todd Howe, left HUD to take top jobs at the association in the middle of the GSE rule-making (the MBA parted company with both once Andrew was out of HUD). In 2000, a year after Howe joined the association, he described how he had helped build a grassroots MBA effort to pressure Congress and others into supporting HUD in what he described as the "battle" being "waged against Fannie Mae." Glaser's Harvard alumni biography says he "played a key role in negotiating a multi-billion-dollar increase in GSE affordable-housing goals." He and Howe—who insist they had "no contact" with Cuomo on the MBA's behalf—have given $3,000 to Cuomo in recent years.

The MBA also retained Brad Johnson, another ex–Mario Cuomo aide described as his "eyes and ears" in Washington, to lobby HUD while Andrew was secretary. Three other long-term HUD staffers who worked there under Cuomo—including the lawyer who was the contact person listed on the GSE rules—also ended up at the MBA or one of its lobbying firms. Angelo Mozilo, the CEO of Countrywide who's become the face of the subprime scandal, was at one point the MBA's president and a member of its executive committee throughout Cuomo's HUD tenure. He and other MBA leaders became Cuomo donors, with Mozilo donating $1,000 twice—in 2002 and 2006.

Describing HUD as "the court of last resort" and "a key ally," MBA president Kit Sumner hailed Cuomo shortly after the announcement of the GSE goals at the organization's annual convention, which usually draws 6,000 lenders and brokers. Cuomo spoke at the convention every year during his tenure, appeared there as recently as 2004, and was listed on the agenda for 2005, though the MBA says he didn't attend. His father was a paid convention speaker in 2004 as well. Cuomo was regarded as such a friend of the MBA that National People's Action, a Chicago-based housing group, staged protests unrelated to the GSEs at the MBA, HUD, and Cuomo's home in McLean, Virginia. The group's spokesman declared: "We know that the MBA has a lot of pull with Andrew Cuomo, and we tried to convince them to back off. MBA said they are fully committed to HUD."

Photograph by Staci Schwartz. Baby Models: Pescha and Sophia Samiljan


Research assistance by Samuel Breidbart, Brian Colgan, Tatyana Gulko, Sarah Lavery, and Amanda Stutt

FM Watch's lobbyists during the Cuomo years at HUD included Tony Podesta, the brother of Clinton's chief of staff, and the law firm Akin Gump, where Cuomo has so many allies that his campaign committee has collected $67,550 in contributions there since he formed it in early 2001. Joel Jankowsky, head of the Akin lobbying group that represented this single-issue group, gave $7,500 to Cuomo—most of it within weeks after the formation of Andrew's committee in 2001. Jankowsky is a close personal friend of Dan Glickman, who joined Akin when he stepped down as agriculture secretary just as Cuomo left HUD in 2001. Glickman's wife Rhoda was Cuomo's deputy chief of staff, and the two Glickmans donated $10,500 to Cuomo. They also covered $23,900 of their own expenses traveling and fundraising for the campaign, which listed that as an in-kind contribution.

These groups clearly had Cuomo's ear, but he was also being pushed to commit the GSEs to more affordable and, in some cases, riskier loans by consumer organizations—groups like ACORN, which has considerable clout in New York elections. The housing advocates were happy with Cuomo's goal-setting at HUD, but the lax reporting requirements and predatory-lending loopholes suggest who was actually driving his agenda. The MBA and FM Watch didn't care about these issues; advocates did. When the final rules were announced, most of the consumer groups said little about these loopholes, but Bruce Marks, CEO of the Neighborhood Assistance Corporation, criticized the tepid enforcement: "What you're seeing is Fannie and Freddie flexing their muscle," he observed. "They have more money than God, and they use it."

Cuomo wouldn't answer Voice questions for this piece, but he was briefed on every issue raised in it and discussed his responses with Glaser, who replied in both interviews and e-mails. Glaser insisted that raising the GSE goals "was a good thing then and now," contending that "no one ever criticized Cuomo for not taking on the fight at HUD" and blaming "the Bush team that never even tried" for the mistakes that have led to the current debacle.

He dismissed the failure to include any reporting requirements in the rules by confusing it with a parallel path that Cuomo took in his final two years—an eventually successful effort to get the GSEs to supply HUD with data on the terms of 10 million loans from their automated underwriting (AU) system. Glaser contends that the GSE's ad hoc decision to turn over that information—which no court was even asked to order—obviated the need to put any data requirements in a binding rule. It's odd that Glaser makes that argument now, since Cuomo never did so when he was making the rules, and when he went on for pages about whether or not to require loan data. In fact, Cuomo's handling of the AU data itself has long been a sore spot. Fishbein's 2002 article noted that HUD completed its review of the data in 2000, but "inexplicably has yet to release the results." (Fishbein says he doesn't know if this was Cuomo's fault.)

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