June 11, 2009

TRANSPARENCY: Congress Hedges on Disclosure:

As the government spends billions bailing out cash-strapped businesses and homeowners, Americans might wonder whether their lawmakers are refinancing their own mortgages or benefiting from relief they backed.

Good luck finding out.

Congress has made a big deal about getting tough on itself with stronger ethics rules, but when it comes to details of lawmakers’ personal finances — and any potential conflicts of interest they may pose — the law lets in as much shadow as sunlight. The government financial disclosure reports that Congress is expected to release Friday will be no exception. Lawmakers can still keep important information private. . . .

Lawmakers do not have to reveal homes they own unless they are rental properties. They also do not have to say whether they have mortgages or home equity lines of credit on their non-rental residences, who holds the debt, how much it is or what the terms are. Often, it’s only when scandal occurs that the public learns of financial arrangements that pose potential conflicts of interest.

That was the case when the chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, Chris Dodd, D-Conn., and the chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, Kent Conrad, D-N.D., received preferential treatment on mortgages. Dodd was an architect of last year’s multibillion-dollar housing rescue plan. The scandal involved a Countrywide Financial Corp., “VIP” program for “friends of Angelo,” Countrywide’s then-chief executive Angelo Mozilo. The Securities and Exchange Commission filed a lawsuit this month accusing Mozilo of civil fraud and illegal insider trading.

Dodd’s mortgages don’t appear in his public financial disclosure reports; Conrad disclosed a Countrywide mortgage on a rental property but not one for a vacation home. Both have denied wrongdoing.

Of course they have.

Comments are closed.
InstaPundit is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.