“Fannie and Freddie played the political game even more fiercely than their opponents, spending millions of dollars on armies of lobbyists on Capitol Hill. Each company was a revolving door for the powerful in Washington- both Republican and Democrat. Newt Gingrich and Ralph Reed, among others, worked as consultants for Fannie or Freddie; Rahm Emanuel was a board member of Freddie.”

“By the 1990’s, Fannie’s chief executive could boast, without much exaggeration, that “we are the equivalent of a Federal Reserve system for housing.”  At their pinnacle the two mortgage giants- neither of them and originator of loans- owned or guaranteed some 55 percent of the $11 trillion U.S. mortgage market.  Beginning in the 1980’s, the two companies also became important conduits for the business of mortgage- backed securities.  Wall Street loved the fees it collected from securitizing all kinds of debt, from car loans to credit card receivables, and Fannie’s and Freddie’s portfolio of mortgages were the biggest honeypot around.”

“But in 1999, under pressure from the Clinton administration, Fannie and Freddie began underwriting subprime mortgages. The move was presented in the press as a way to put  homes within the reach of countless Americans, but providing loans to people who wouldn’t ordinarily qualify for them was an inherently risky business.”

From Too Big To Fail by Andrew Ross Sorkin