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Posted at 10:00 PM ET, 12/14/2010

After 25 years of marriage, Washington power couple Maxine Isaacs and Jim Johnson separate

By The Reliable Source

Maxine Isaacs and Jim Johnson in front of the Signature Theatre performance space named for them in 2007. (Scott Suchman/TWP)

Jim Johnson and Maxine Isaacs -- one of Washington's top power couples -- have separated after 25 years of marriage.

Just ten days ago, the two hosted their annual Kennedy Center Honors brunch and attended the star-studded awards show together. But a split was quietly in the works: She moved into a Georgetown townhouse last week; he's staying in their $5 million penthouse at the Ritz-Carlton. Johnson and Isaacs declined to comment.

They have been fixtures on Washington's A-list, with ties to the political, business and cultural life of the city. For seven years in the '90s, Johnson was chairman of Fannie Mae -- and at one point, also served as chair of both the Kennedy Center and the Brookings Institution, causing Harold Ickes to nickname him "chairman of the universe." Isaacs, with advanced degrees in international policy, is a lecturer at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government and serves on several arts and policy boards.

Their names are all over town -- literally, carved into walls -- thanks to a long list of philanthropic donations. Most notably, they created and underwrote the Kennedy Center's free Millennium Stage and gave $1 million to Arlington's Signature Theatre, which named the Max Theatre after her.

The couple met while working on Walter Mondale's 1984 presidential campaign: Johnson was the campaign's manager; Isaacs served as press secretary. They were married in January, 1985, with a toast from Mondale at the reception: "Some people really don't understand what the campaign was all about," he told the guests. "It was really a front operation for Maxine and Jim to get to know each other under extreme conditions of stress."

Johnson made his fortune at the Federal National Mortgage Association (Fannie Mae), where he worked from 1991 to 1998. By the time he left, he was making $7 million a year and donating millions as head of the Fannie Mae Foundation. According to property records, they own two multi-million properties near Palm Springs, Calif., and a spread in Montana, in addition to the Georgetown Ritz condo -- and recently sold a home in Woodley Park for $4.2 million.

The couple remained deeply involved in Democratic politics, donating several thousands to candidates and campaigns. In 2008, Johnson led Barack Obama's search for a vice-president until the worsening financial crisis -- and questions about whether his stewardship at Fannie Mae contributed to the sub prime mortgage scandal -- caused him to step aside. He now works as vice chairman of the private investment firm Perseus LLC.

No divorce papers have been filed. The couple has one adult son.

By The Reliable Source  | December 14, 2010; 10:00 PM ET
Categories:  Politics  
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Comments

Wonder who will host the Kennedy Ctr. honors next year...Johnson &??????

And what a farce to host together with the marriage on the rocks long before the separation...The pic together above is enough to make one puke....

Posted by: pentagon40 | December 14, 2010 11:58 PM | Report abuse


The money that you save by refinancing every month can be sensibly used to repay your unique loan or to upsurge your savings. Do not forget to search online for "123 Mortgage Refinance" they found 3.17% rate for me.

Posted by: terellwilson | December 15, 2010 4:43 AM | Report abuse

They are a power couple because he ran Fannie Mae. Considering how that ended, we should take all the money he made there back. DC elites are d@$ches.

Posted by: columbiaheights | December 15, 2010 7:55 AM | Report abuse

And we are supposed to care about this? We are wasting trillions of dollars in stupid wars, giving billions to the Bailout Boys and destroying our environment all the while. In the meantime, the Post feeds us this drivel. Shameful.

Posted by: rwb1122 | December 15, 2010 8:54 AM | Report abuse

Well said, columbiaheights. It is unfortunate that Mr. Johnson made his millions by backing low quality mortgages with government money while thumping his chest for achieving the dubious goal of "home ownership for all!" But it is sickening that that money was then used to parlay his family to "power couple" status. If this is what it takes to be considered successful in Washington, I think I should move to Alaska.

Posted by: dcgal1435 | December 15, 2010 9:05 AM | Report abuse

pentagon40, what are you so bitter about?

Posted by: nomorewholefoods | December 15, 2010 10:03 AM | Report abuse

Pentagon40 if you bothered to read ANYTHING you would have seen that they hosted a brunch NOT the awards and you would see from the caption that the picture was taken in 2007- not in the past 2 weeks. At a point in time where for all you know the marriage was a very happy one. Read before you comment. Maybe that would make you sound a little less ignorant.

Posted by: McCarthy911 | December 15, 2010 10:23 AM | Report abuse

Perhaps in a Harold Ickes "universe" Jim Johnson is still Chairman but generally this is pretty much a dark star. To wit, the hue and cry that went up when he was announced as a Co-Chair of nominee presumptive Barack Obama's vice-presidential search committee. Caroline Kennedy certainly got the message that she didn't want her name linked to his. Clever how certain big chunks of Johnson's CV have been expunged herein, like, for instance, his questionable tenure at the Senate Banking Committee.

Johnson enriched himself immeasurably by bringing "modern" financial applications ("voodoo" economics, quants,etc.) to bear in a wholesale looting of Fannie Mae. Johnson's methods eventually brought the enterprise to its knees but not before he had slid out. He then brought us such greatest hits as Frank Raines and the looney tunes tenure of his lieutenant Larry Smalls at the Smithsonian.

Maxine Isaacs is a good egg I think. She was certainly out front intellectually on cyber issues and in my opinion has always had a much much keener intellect then Jim Johnson. It will be interesting to see if she now shines. She is certainly of a different stripe then most of the so called, self described, "power partners" of DC. These have mostly been addle brained wives of dubiously rich men who hide out with sinecures at WETA or go about scarring the landscape or engineering ill advised presidential partners. Good luck Maxine, hope to get seated with you sometime soon!

Posted by: SoCali | December 15, 2010 11:09 AM | Report abuse


So it was Walter Mondale's campaign manager who led the plundering at Fannie Mae.

The Mrs. will get half but that still leaves him with 100% more than he should have.


Posted by: Gidgmom | December 15, 2010 11:32 AM | Report abuse

The Walter Mondale thing is a red herring, the story lies in the Senate Banking Committee tenure. Johnson spread his tenacles widely but most of it was not obvious or fit for the light of day.
For instance, Jamie "Everywhere, all the time", "Mistress of Disaster" Gorelick, was his number two henchman at Fannie Mae with a 27M+ known payday.

Cynics might suggest that Johnson/Gorelick's manipulations were in a great part responsible for the collapse of the entire housing market but, heh, they got rich, so lets sing "Kumbaya" and move on.. It will never be known how rich Jim Johnson got from his career in "public service" I'll bet. He does throw one heckuva brunch.

Posted by: SoCali | December 15, 2010 11:56 AM | Report abuse

Wow, high profile brunches and now this! Could Jim be finally ready to come out?
Do I see a Lance Bass or Bruce Vilanch in his future?

Posted by: SoCali | December 15, 2010 12:12 PM | Report abuse

Man, you people are a bunch of haters without any knowledge of anything. I worked for Jim (at a very senior level) for many years. To say that his policies brought down Fannie Mae or the housing industry is just blatantly incorrect.

How about something like, "wow, isn't it too bad that people who have a son, and so much invested (25 yrs) have decided to make this change."

How about - wow, isn't it great that, unlike other rich people, these folks have been wildly generous...let's be generous to them at a difficult time.

Posted by: dcisme | December 15, 2010 12:17 PM | Report abuse

He "earned" 7 million dollars at Fannie Mae.

Yeah right.

The accountant at Fannie, who was being honest with himself, committed suicide a few years back.

Posted by: justhefacs | December 15, 2010 12:24 PM | Report abuse

Actually "justhefacs" you might want to check your facts. that was freddie mac

Posted by: dcisme | December 15, 2010 12:38 PM | Report abuse

Hey, dcism and McCarthy911: You really expect bloggers here to let facts get in the way of their biased, baseless and uninformed opinions? :-)

Posted by: MrBethesda | December 15, 2010 1:26 PM | Report abuse

Agreed, The saddest part is that they are getting a divorce. The rest of this nonsense is just misinformed foolishness. Get your facts straight before you comment. The government not monitoring the banks/lending policies is what got the housing crisis in the situation it's in. Their greed!

And consumer greed trying to get houses they can't afford. Anyway, happy holidays!

Posted by: getitright6 | December 15, 2010 8:38 PM | Report abuse

So dcisme worked at a senior level, which means at a senior level of compensation which, of course, doesn't color his memories.

"Wildly generous" with money that was looted from Fannie Mae and therefor from the American taxpayers. I know that you all drank the Kool-Ade and came to believe that the "modern financial instruments" you brought to bear at Fannie Mae fueled all that profiteering but the truth is that years later when it all washed forward Fannie Mae collapsed. Jim Johnson is a fraud and a closet case, sorry to burst your hero balloon.

Posted by: JackStar | December 15, 2010 11:58 PM | Report abuse

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