Early Briefing: Who Speaks For Fannie, Freddie?

Who speaks for Fannie Mae and Freddie Max now?

Their government overseer, apparently.

The mortgage finance giants have dismantled their powerful lobbying corps, removing two dozen people who made up one of Washington's most formidable advocacy teams.

The departures came after the government announced that all lobbying by the companies would end while they are under federal control.

The companies had previously announced the departures of chief lobbyists Duane Duncan of Fannie Mae and Timothy J. McBride of Freddie Mac. Most of the other members of their operations have since been let go as well, according to several sources familiar with the matter who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the departures.

Staff writer Zachary A. Goldfarb reports that some special interest groups already are moving quickly to fill the void with thoughts of what they think the companies should do.

Others think the disappearance of company lobbyists will allow other voices to be heard, which might have been a good thing before the housing market melted down.

In other news:

* Shares of Circuit City fell nearly 30 percent Tuesday after an analyst downgraded it on the heels of poor second-quarter results. In a research note, RBC Capital Markets analyst Scot Ciccarelli downgraded the Richmond retailer to "underperform" from "sector perform." Shares closed down 32 cents, to 76 cents.

On Monday, Circuit City withdrew its outlook for the year and told investors that its second-quarter loss more than tripled as sales fell 10 percent.

* Virginia officials said Tuesday that the Army's decision to put 6,400 defense workers in Alexandria was a blow to efforts to cluster development around mass transit, but they expressed hope that the impact on traffic could be minimized with stepped-up bus service and road improvements.

The owner of the Mark Center, the private development on Seminary Road where the office complex will be built, said it will invest as much as $10 million to improve intersections and expand lanes in the area. The company, Duke Realty, also plans to create a transportation hub on the site, with local bus service and shuttle service to the King Street Metro, which has a Virginia Railway Express depot.

The site will also benefit from the proposed widening of Interstate 395 to provide high-occupancy toll lanes, state officials said.

* The Howard Hughes Medical Institute, one of the world's richest philanthropies and a leading funder of U.S. biomedical research, announced Tuesday that it has tapped a distinguished biochemistry and molecular biology professor as its new president.

Robert Tjian, of the University of California, Berkeley, will take the helm of the Chevy Chase-based nonprofit institute in April. Tjian succeeds Thomas R. Cech, who has served as president since 2000 and will return to full-time research and teaching at the University of Colorado at Boulder.

By Dan Beyers  |  October 1, 2008; 8:35 AM ET  | Category:  Economy Watch
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