This recent MSNBC article caught my eye: “Key Lawmaker Calls for Head of GM to Step Down.”
The “key lawmaker” is Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT), who imparted this nugget of wisdom on a popular morning news program:
“It is not my job to hire and fire, but what I’m trying to suggest is that you need to have new teams in place,” Dodd told ABC’s Good Morning America show on Monday.
“If you are going to restructure a company you can’t be asking the people frankly, many who were involved in creating the problems we’re in, to be involved in restructuring.”
Pot, meet kettle. Or, as I usually refer to him, “Connecticut’s other senator.” (Full disclosure: he is my senator.) Despite his seniority in Washington, few people outside of Connecticut had heard of Dodd until recently. In fact, so few people had heard of Dodd that his run for the Democratic presidential nomination garnered him a whopping 0% of the vote in Iowa, making him one of the first casualties of the 2008 primary season. His was less of a “dark horse” candidacy than a dime-a-dozen candidacy.
His recent claim to national fame — or is that infamy? — is related to his involvement in the subprime mortgage meltdown. As the head of the Senate Banking Committee, Dodd was one of the stooges involved in overseeing what was going on over at Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae. His partner in crime was his House counterpart, Barney Frank.
So while Dodd is busy preaching about how GM needs an “out with the old, in with the new” restructuring policy, he conveniently ignores his own questionable role in the problems that are plaguing the American economy today. He was one of a handful of government officials who received special sweetheart deals from Countrywide Financial, as a part of its “V.I.P. program” in 2003 and 2004. While Dodd was saving big bucks for being a Friend of Angelo — Angelo Mozilo, the CEO of Countrywide — he was regulating the industry that provided him those savings. And for more icing on this stale cake, note that since becoming the chairman of the banking panel, Dodd has received $20,000 from the Bank of America PAC, and Bank of America employees donated at least $50,400 to his campaign. What’s the connection? Bank of America bought Countrywide in January of this year.
Dodd was also the “biggest winner” as far as campaign donations from Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae PACs from 1989-2008 — to the tune of $133,900.
When the mortgage mess hit the fan, Dodd promised to release documentation to prove that nothing untoward went on and that he knew nothing about the preferential treatment he received from Countrywide. Six months later, we’re still waiting.
There’s no proof of wrongdoing on Dodd’s part. Yet as an elected representative, he should strive to avoid even the appearance of conflict of interest. When a liberal paper like the New York Times takes issue with your dillydallying, perhaps it’s time to come clean. If there’s nothing to hide, what’s stopping him from disclosing the documentation that will prove it?
Is Dodd’s suggestion that GM’s head honcho resign during the restructuring a good one? I wouldn’t presume to say yes or no, as I’m not any kind of business expert. Yet I find it ironic that a man who played a role in the subprime mortgage mess that spiked the current economic downturn is now making such pronouncements from on high. Is there something in the water in Washington that neutralizes any sense of embarrassment or shame from our political leaders?
Dodd is up for reelection in 2010. I heard or read somewhere that he wasn’t planning on running again. I don’t know how true that rumor is, but just as when I hear professional athletes announce that they plan on retiring, I am maintaining a healthy dose of skepticism. My money is also on him continuing to hem and haw when it comes to releasing those documents, and to continue to get a pass from his colleagues and much of the legacy media.
It’s the Washington way, doncha know.