It was six moths ago when Connecticut Senator Chris Dodd admitted to America that he had the IQ of a slug (either that or he thinks that his constituents were stupid). It had been disclosed that the Chairman of the Senate Banking Committee Received TWO VIP Loans from Sub-Prime Lender Countrywide Inc. The Loans were at favorable interest rates.
THE CHAIRMAN OF THE SENATE BANKING COMMITTEE, Chris Dodd, said he didn’t realize that VIP treatment meant favorable rates. COME Freaking ON. He is CHAIRMAN OF THE SENATE BANKING COMMITTEE, we were really to believe that he has no Idea of what is a good loan rate and what is a an extra-special loan rate? Dodd says he didn’t know to ask. So I guess that means that he has no sense of ethics along with a lack of common sense. But at the time, at least he offered to release papers surrounding his VIP loans. That was last July.
Finally after six months, Senator Dodd decided to keep his promise–well sort of:
Dodd’s Peek-A-Boo Disclosure
Connecticut Senator Chris Dodd has finally, sort of, kind of, ended 193 days of stonewalling about his sweetheart loans from former Countrywide CEO Angelo Mozilo. At least he did if you were a fast reader and were one of the few reporters he invited to his Hartford office yesterday to review — but not copy or take — more than 100 pages of documents related to his 2003 mortgage financings through Countrywide’s “Friends of Angelo” program.
These are the files that Mr. Dodd pledged to make public after the news broke last summer that the Chairman of the Senate Banking Committee had received preferential treatment from Countrywide. At first, Mr. Dodd denied everything. Later, he conceded that he’d been given special treatment but thought it was “more of a courtesy.”
Heck, we’d all love the kind of courtesy that would have saved Mr. Dodd $75,000 over the life of the two loans he refinanced to the tune of $800,000, according to an analysis by Portfolio magazine. The savings came from rock-bottom interest rates and a free “float-down” — the right to borrow at a lower rate if interest rates fall before you’ve closed on the loan.
On Monday, with interest rates — even for non-VIPs — near historic lows, Mr. Dodd announced that he would refinance the sweetheart loans with another lender. The rates on the two Friends of Angelo loans were 4.5% and 4.25%, so the Senator will probably end up paying a bit more than he is now. But getting out from under the original loans doesn’t shed any light on the key question: Whether Mr. Dodd knew that he got the red-carpet treatment because of his central role in regulating the financial industry. That’s what former Countrywide employee Robert Feinberg has claimed to us and others.
We don’t know whether the documents Mr. Dodd briefly showed yesterday illuminate this mystery or not, because he didn’t release them to us, or to the public or his constituents. Perhaps the reporters he allowed to take a quick peak will tell us more. What he did release to everyone was a set of fact sheets that purport to show there was nothing favorable about the terms Mr. Dodd and his wife received from Countrywide, along with a consultant’s report that reaches the same conclusion. Mr. Dodd’s office did not respond to our request for the documents themselves, which he promised to release more than six months ago.
But consultant reports — prepared at the behest of a law firm hired by Mr. Dodd to help him through the Countrywide mess — tell us nothing about what Mr. Dodd knew and when he knew it. Instead, they are an attempt to change the subject. Mr. Feinberg has said that Friends of Angelo were regularly reminded that they were getting special treatment — otherwise, what was the point? And he claims to have Countrywide documents that prove that Mr. Dodd was aware that Countrywide had done him favors. Those documents may or may not be among those that Mr. Dodd played peek-a-boo with Monday, but we still don’t know. Mr. Dodd said he’s “sorry” he didn’t release the documents sooner — just not sorry enough to actually release them, apparently.
Countrywide was for years the biggest single customer of Fannie Mae, the giant government-sponsored mortgage securitizer that has since gone into federal conservatorship. Much of Countrywide’s business was built around its ability to sell loans to Fannie, and Mr. Mozilo helped push Fannie to accept dodgier and dodgier paper. Mr. Dodd in turn supported this goal by pressing Fannie to do more for “affordable” housing.
This nexus between Mr. Dodd’s public duties and Countrywide’s interests is a serious matter involving the Senator’s personal ethics and accountability to taxpayers who will be paying for Fannie’s bad loans for years to come. If, as Mr. Dodd claims, he has nothing to hide, then why is he still hiding it?