Image: Jim Johnson
Susan Walsh  /  AP file
Jim Johnson arrives on Capitol Hill in Washington on Monday for a meeting with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
NBC News and news services
updated 6/11/2008 4:47:38 PM ET 2008-06-11T20:47:38

A manager of Democrat Barack Obama's vice presidential search team resigned Wednesday amid criticism over his personal loan deals.

"Jim did not want to distract in any way from the very important task of gathering information about my vice presidential nominee, so he has made a decision to step aside that I accept," Obama said in a statement. "We have a very good selection process under way, and I am confident that it will produce a number of highly qualified candidates for me to choose from in the weeks ahead. I remain grateful to Jim for his service and his efforts in this process."

Johnson, the former chairman of mortgage lender Fannie Mae, received loans with the help of the CEO of Countrywide Financial Corp., which is part of a federal investigation in the midst of the subprime mortgage crisis. Republican presidential candidate John McCain had accused Obama of hypocrisy for speaking out against Countrywide's tactics while his vetter got favorable rates on three home mortgages totaling $1.7 million.

Johnson served on Obama's vetting team with two prominent Democratic attorneys — former Deputy Attorney General Eric Holder and Caroline Kennedy, the daughter of the late President John F. Kennedy.

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Johnson brought the most experience to the vetting team, having filled the same role for Democratic nominees John Kerry in 2004 and Walter Mondale in 1984. He and Holder had been holding meetings this week with lawmakers on Capitol Hill to seek their input on possible running mate candidates.

Video: Obama V.P. vetter steps down The campaign declined to answer questions about whether Johnson would be replaced or the vetting process will be left to Holder and Kennedy, who have not been involved in a vice presidential search before.

On Tuesday, Obama said Johnson had a "discrete task" and was performing it well. He suggested the Countrywide connection was not a problem since Johnson was an unpaid volunteer and hadn't been assigned to work in a future administration.

"I am not vetting my V.P. search committee for their mortgages," Obama said at the time.

But according to NBC News Political Director Chuck Todd, it's not always easy to keep "connected" people out of campaigns.

"So many supposedly qualified people have ties to corporate boards or lobbying firms," said Todd. "You can't run a government based on academics alone."

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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