Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Senator Dodd and Angelo

Editorial-Angelo Who?, New York Times, February 8, 2009.

After months of delay, Senator Christopher Dodd has offered a fuller but less than satisfactory account of the V.I.P. mortgage loans extended to him by a key player in the subprime mortgage crisis. Mr. Dodd, the banking committee chairman who oversees remedies for the continuing financial crisis, denied any ethical wrongdoing or “sweetheart deals” in the $781,000 house refinancings he got through the Countrywide Financial Corporation.

Even so, the senator announced his mortgages would be refinanced elsewhere as he decried being listed in internal loan files as a “Friend of Angelo.” That’s Angelo Mozilo, the Countrywide chief executive who had a lot of Washington friends happy to avail themselves of attractive mortgage deals before being overtaken by the subprime scandal.

Last summer, a former Countrywide executive disclosed the V.I.P. program and estimated that it could save Mr. Dodd more than $70,000 across the years of his loans. The senator denied any Angelo friendship or cut-rate favoritism in what he said seemed a mere courtesy service, and he promised a detailed accounting.

That finally came this month, but in an oddly limited viewing of documents offered by the senator in his Connecticut office, not the Capitol. Reporters could peruse, but not take or copy, the documents. They showed strong credit ratings for Mr. Dodd and his wife, who firmly insisted they received a lower interest rate through normal negotiation, not insiders’ pandering. The delay, said Senator Dodd, was due to waiting on a Senate ethics inquiry that has offered no results so far.

No one has accused Senator Dodd of serious wrongdoing. Rather, the suspicion is he might have been tripped up by the moneyed Washington subculture where powerful incumbents are invited to get something wholesale. The chastened senator apologized to constituents that he was not more responsive much earlier. He and his colleagues are going to have to do better.

Comment: Sure, he and his colleagues will do a better job, a better job concealing their activities from the citizenry.

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