Ed Morrissey reports that the House Democrats are doing their best to block further investigation into the sweetheart deals that certain Senators (including the embattled Chris Dodd (D-CT)) received from Countrywide. Dodd’s re-election chances have been severely damaged by the partial revelations concerning the favors he got from Countrywide, especially in light of the fact that, as chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, he is the primary Senator responsible for oversight over institutions like Countrywide. As the information concerning the extent of Dodd’s entanglement with Countrywide continues to leak out, the ethical problems for Dodd (including repeated and intentional understatement of the value of assets in his Senate disclosure) continue to pile up:
A year ago, Portfolio magazine reported that Dodd was enjoying more than $800,000 in favorable loans from subprime mortgage titan Countrywide Financial as a member of the “Friends of Angelo.” That was the exclusive club of borrowers given special treatment at the behest of Countrywide co-founder and president Angelo Mozilo.
The Los Angeles Times published a blunt analysis of the dense legal minefield around Mozilo. It must have made for chilling reading inside Dodd’s fortress. The Times reported “an FBI investigation includes a probe of his company’s role in an influence-peddling scandal involving U.S. Sen. Christopher J. Dodd (D-Conn.).”
The Friends of Angelo sweetheart deals have attracted the attention of prosecutors in Los Angeles and officials at the Justice Department in Washington. A lawyer familiar with the investigation of the Friends of Angelo scheme told the Times “the Justice Department appeared to be investigating whether the program amounted to improper influence-peddling by Countrywide and whether the politicians had failed to publicly report favors from Mozilo.”
The Times suggests a familiar way out for the beleaguered Mozilo: trade testimony about the Friends of Angelo for a deal with prosecutors and other authorities.
Now, GOP members of the House Oversight committee, led by Darrell Issa, want full access to documents Dodd has stubbornly refused to release; documents which would indicate why Dodd’s loans included provisions allowing his interest rate to “float down” with decreasing interest rates, despite having allegedly “locked in” interest rates in 2003. Curiously, House Democrats seem uninterested in investigating this particular “culture of corruption,” at least at this time.
Issa’s written request to Bank of America, which acquired Countrywide Financial, comes without the signature of Committee on Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Edolphus Towns (D-N.Y.). Issa’s staff said it was recently told that Towns would not sign the letter, an Issa spokesman said.
“Currently the chairman is focused on the financial crisis and stimulus oversight,” Jenny Rosenberg, Towns’s spokeswoman, wrote in an e-mail.
With Towns’ signature, the letter carries a much more forceful demand, as it indicates bipartisan support on the committee for obtaining the documents. It strongly implies that if the request is not complied with, a Congressional subpoena may be forthcoming. Without Towns’ signature, it carries the imprimatur only of a request of the minority members of the committee. BoA might reasonably conclude that they could ignore the request with no consequences. Towns could fix this by simply affixing his signature with the letter; apparently, he’s too busy with oversight of other matters to pick up his pen and sign his name once to a letter. It’s not as if it’s important to discover whether Countrywide was involved in an influence-peddling scheme which helped to bring down the entire financial industry, after all.
Democrats are clearly uninterested in cleaning their own house, or even looking around to discover how dirty it is. Let’s send one of their most corrupt members of Congress home so that he can have more time working on his legal defense.