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Mortgage rate draws interest

Sweet deals on home loans have gotten a string of Democrats into hot water lately. Among those humbled was James A. Johnson, who was helping vet potential running mates for Sen. Barack Obama until Johnson’s mortgage rate breaks were revealed.

But Obama scoffed at the suggestion, raised by a Washington Post story, that he had received special treatment three years ago on a $1.32-million loan from Northern Trust of Illinois. The mortgage financed the purchase of a $1.65-million home in Chicago’s Hyde Park area.

The interest rate Obama received for his 30-year fixed jumbo loan was 5.625%. At the time, the average for similar loans was estimated in the range of 5.93% to 6%.

“This is a ridiculous argument,” he told reporters Thursday.

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Although the Post story said Obama and his wife, Michelle, had no prior relationship with Northern Trust when they applied for the loan, the candidate challenged that account. He attributed the loan’s attractive terms partly to “the fact that I was getting the mortgage from a bank where I had deposited a substantial amount of my assets and they were actively seeking my business.”

“There was no indication whatsoever that the loan amount was in any way out of the ordinary,” he said.

In other words, Obama says his political future hasn’t been mortgaged.


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