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Johnson contradicted Obama's rhetoric

From NBC's Lisa Myers
Earlier today, the Obama campaign announced that Jim Johnson was stepping down from the candidate's vice presidential selection committee.

In choosing Johnson, Obama ran squarely into his own rhetoric, given that the Illinois Democrat has criticized lavish pay packages given CEOs.

VIDEO: NBC Political Director Chuck Todd discusses the resignation of Obama vice presidential vetter Jim Johnson.

"When you've got CEOs making more in 10 minutes than ordinary people are making in an entire year, something is wrong, something has to change," Obama has said.

You see, Johnson -- once dubbed "Mr. Generosity" -- was a symbol of that culture because of the large pay packages he bestowed on CEOs as head of corporate compensation committees.

Examples: $1.4 billion in stock options for the CEO of United Health and $232 million in compensation over 3 years to the CEO of KB Homes. Both men later had to give some of the money back.

In 2006, a top labor official had called for Johnson's "resignation," charging that his record was "replete with compensation abuses."

Obama, in fact, had specifically criticized a bonus granted earlier this year -- and approved by Johnson. "The homebuilding company KB Homes, they lost nearly one billion dollars last year," Obama said in Indianapolis in April. "But their CEO walked away with 6 million dollars in cash bonuses on top of his $1 million base salary."

Johnson, who parlayed an impressive political pedigree into great wealth, also benefited from accounting manipulations while CEO of Fannie Mae, though was never accused of wrongdoing. And the Wall Street Journal reports he may have received preferential rates on mortgages from Countrywide, though Johnson's lawyer disputes.

On Tuesday morning, Obama dismissed the criticism. "Everybody, you know, who is anybody who is tangentially related to our campaign, I think, is going to have a whole host of relationships. I would have to hire the vetter to vet the vetters."

Tuesday night, the campaign provided a statement to NBC News, saying: "Jim Johnson has volunteered his time to perform a specific task for the campaign, one he has performed many times for many candidates before, that has nothing to do with advising the campaign in the development of policy."

By Wednesday, Johnson was gone.