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CULTURE OF CORRUPTION (CONT’D): Four More “Friends of Angelo” in Congress. “With Congress about to wrap up its year-end business and head home for the holidays, there probably won’t be too much news made on Capitol Hill until next month. Why not conduct a whodunit instead? House Oversight chair Rep. Darrell Issa resurrected the Countrywide Financial influence-peddling scandal by informing the Ethics Committee that four current members received sweetheart deals on loans through the infamous Friends of Angelo program that sent former Senator Chris Dodd into retirement … perhaps to the Irish mansion he now owns.”

It’s a “cottage.” It just looks like a mansion to the untrained eye.

DEALBREAKER: Chris Dodd prepares for the beard. “Now that the Senate Ethics Committee has opined that Chris Dodd’s status as a VIP friend of A-Moz and associated discounts does not violate the moral high road, the Senate Banking Committee Chairman can get back to his bread and butter- playing Monday morning quarterback for the financial crisis. The Countrywide circle of trust member now wants to make it known that the Beard can expect a ‘thorough and comprehensive’ renomination hearing during which Dodd will prominently display his ability to recount revisionist history.”

What about that Irish “cottage” of Dodd’s?

I WISH I WERE A SENATOR, SO I COULD GET THIS KIND OF HOUSING-MARKET APPRECIATION: Dodd’s Irish Cottage: Was $190,000. Now $658,000. “A new appraisal of the Irish cottage owned by Sen. Christopher Dodd concludes that it is worth about three times as much as Dodd has been reporting on his financial disclosure forms. . . . Dodd has been criticized for low-balling the worth of the cottage in his disclosure forms. Questions also have been raised about his original purchase of the cottage with a Kansas City businessman William Kessinger, who he met through long-time campaign contributor Edward Downe.”

CHRIS DODD UPDATE: Hoping the credit card bill will save him:

Dodd’s popularity among Connecticut voters has sunk in the wake of several issues dogging him — including mortgages from Countrywide, a troubled lender.

Dodd’s role in the financial industry relief legislation was later tainted when it was revealed he had a hand in writing provisions that allowed bonuses to be paid to AIG executives.

Dodd and his staff have been pushing the credit card legislation heavily in recent weeks — and it has been mentioned prominently in appearances around the state.

But Dodd, who faces re-election next year, says this is far from a new issue for him, having campaigned for more consumer protections for more than 20 years, beginning with disclosures about credit card terms and fees.

On the other hand, the bad publicity just keeps coming:

Since her marriage, Mrs. Dodd, whose name also appeared on those infamous sweetheart mortgages from Countrywide Financial, has seen her income quadruple thanks to her recruitment for lucrative positions on corporate boards, including CME Group, the world’s largest futures exchange. Those jobs have enriched the Dodd household while netting Sen. Dodd’s campaigns at least $40,000 in contributions, according to a published report. In addition, from 2001-04, she was a director for IPC Holdings, an off-shore company controlled by AIG; Sen. Dodd’s political and financial entanglements with AIG are well documented. Today, she also is designated, as required by federal law, as the highly paid “financial expert” on two of her boards’ audit committees, even though she has neither auditing nor accounting credentials or experience. As for Clegg International, she admits she hasn’t had a client since 2005.

Mrs. Dodd protests her husband didn’t help her get these jobs. But with actual business credentials so thin, does she really believe corporations would want her if she wasn’t the wife of a five-term U.S. senator?

And don’t forget that Irish “cottage” . . . .

CHRIS DODD UPDATE: “Already weakened politically by his quixotic presidential candidacy in 2008 and his ties to the failed mortgage giant Countrywide, Dodd found himself at the center of the storm caused by the massive bonuses given to AIG executives. His poll numbers in reliably Democratic Connecticut have tanked badly and he is certain to face serious Republican opposition — in the form of former Rep. Rob Simmons or former Ambassador Tom Foley — in 2010. The good news for Dodd? The bleeding has stopped (for now).” And don’t forget the Irish “cottage” scandal!

Meanwhile, I note that John Murtha, Pete Visclosky, Jim Moran, and Charlie Rangel seem to be keeping a low profile.

CHRIS DODD UPDATE: WaPo: “In Connecticut, Sen. Chris Dodd (D) has been in free fall for the better part of the last year — the result of a hopeless presidential bid (in which he moved his family to Iowa for a time) as well as entanglements with scandal-tarred companies like Countrywide and AIG.” And don’t forget that Irish “cottage!”

OBAMA TRYING TO PROP UP CHRIS DODD?

Plus, Let’s Play ‘Who Gave Chris Dodd More Money Than Connecticut Residents?’

And, Top Five Vulnerable Senate Seats. “Since his initial election to the Senate in 1980, Dodd has won re-election with percentages of 65, 59, 65 and 66. But Dodd has gotten some unfavorable reviews lately, first off reports that he received a sweetheart deal from Countrywide Mortgage, and then over the news of the role he played in the $165 million in bonuses given to executives of the American International Group (AIG) — the insurance giant that was bailed out by the federal government.” Plus that Irish “cottage” problem.

MORE BAD LOCAL PRESS: Dodd’s Costly Errors:

Two years ago, presidential candidate Chris Dodd announced that he wouldn’t be running for the Senate in 2010 but he didn’t mean it.

He only said it to get the Federal Election Commission to let him use leftover millions from his 2004 Senate race to run for president. (The FEC requires a presidential candidate to say he’s not going to run for the office for which the funds were contributed but doesn’t hold him to it. It’s a very thoughtful rule.)

As things turned out, using up his Senate campaign money was a mistake, Dodd’s second, if you consider the first was his decision to run for president. There was a lot of money involved, $4.7 million, and it went toward the $16 million Dodd raised to attract 1 percent of the Democratic Iowa Caucus before quitting the race and moving his family out of their Iowa home and back to Connecticut. . . . And now, with his donor base shrinking, Dodd has to face the first tough Senate race of his career with the mortgage scandal, the AIG bonus scandal, the pardon for a felonious friend scandal, the Irish cottage scandal and, as an extra, added distraction, the charge he was AWOL as chairman of the banking committee while the economy was collapsing. It’s not hard to see why Dodd is redesigning himself as an outraged fixer of the financial mess that evolved while he was running for president.

Good luck with that.

CHRIS DODD UPDATE: Connecticut Post: Dodd Could Use A Good Challenge.

It’s still early to be talking about all of this, but Dodd should have to fight for his nomination this time around, and Pearson could make a good challenger. For one thing, he would represent a major change for people in this part of the state, especially lower Fairfield County, who don’t see much of Mr. Dodd.

Dodd is certainly vulnerable at the moment. Were this a “normal” year, we’d perhaps counsel Pearson to stick to his law practice. He served one term as Greenwich first selectman in the mid-1980s, while Dodd is a five-term United States senator. But Dodd’s troubles of late — an unsettling relationship with Countrywide Financial Corp., a part in the American International Group bonuses saga, and status as a long-term member of the Senate Banking Committee during an era of abuse and meltdown — have caused his approval rating with constituents to sink to a drastically low 33 percent, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released earlier this month.

And state Democrats might consider another finding in the poll: that if elections were held today, Dodd would lose to either of his two declared Republican challengers — former U.S. Rep. Rob Simmons and state Sen. Sam Caligiuri.

Read the whole thing. And they left out the Irish “cottage” affair.

CHRIS DODD UPDATE: “Sen. Chris Dodd has hired a rising political talent as his 2010 campaign manager as he faces his toughest re-election in years. Dodd hired Jay Howser, who led successful runs by Rep. Brad Ellsworth of Indiana and Sen. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana. . . . Dodd, a five-term senator, easily won his last run in 2004. But he’s been criticized for his role in legislation that led to the AIG bonus controversy. A Senate ethics panel is also investigating two mortgages Dodd received from Countrywide.”

And don’t forget that Irish “cottage” problem.

THINGS YOU MAY HAVE MISSED OVER THE WEEKEND:

Buyer’s remorse sets in.

“Tea Party” protests in Orlando, Raleigh, Ridgefield, CT, and Lexington. Also in Steny Hoyer’s district. Plus, advice for Tea Party organizers.

Pushback on witch hunts. Plus, hey, they still need private investors! Oops!

Baghdad Bob covers ACORN. More on that here. Also here.

More on Chris Dodd’s Irish “cottage.”

And, finally, more of our Congress’s “taxes are for the little people” attitude. An Army Of Leonas!

WASHINGTON POST: Furor Over AIG Bonuses May Affect Dodd. “For the first time since he was elected to the Senate in 1980, he could face a serious challenge. And some of Dodd’s longtime supporters are saying they will not vote for him again. . . . Dodd, 64, is chairman of the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee, and Wednesday night, he said his staff removed a provision from the recently enacted economic stimulus bill that would have blocked AIG from paying those bonuses. Dodd said he was acting at the request of Treasury Department officials, who feared the provision would prompt legal challenges. But earlier in the week, Dodd had said he did not know how the provision got removed from the bill.”

But wait, there’s more: “Dodd is also under a Senate ethics investigation involving two mortgages he received from Countrywide Financial for his homes in the District and Connecticut. Dodd in 2003 was enrolled in a Countrywide VIP program that gave him preferential treatment for those loans. Countrywide, once the country’s largest mortgage lender, was sold last year to Bank of America as its subprime mortgage portfolio began to collapse. ” And then there’s the continuing Irish “cottage” problem.

MORE ON CHRIS DODD’S IRISH “COTTAGE,” in the Hartford Courant: Dodd’s Explanations Misleading, Incomplete. Plus this: “Even when they do things they shouldn’t, Dodd takes care of the rich who’ve taken care of him.”

ARE SENATOR DODD’S A.I.G. ACTIONS IMPEACHABLE? Since Senators can’t be impeached, no. And I doubt the Senate will vote to expel him — the actual remedy — as they cover for their own. Still, it looks bad

But there’s this: Congressional Report: Countrywide Bent Loan Rules For Dodd:

An executive at mortgage giant Countrywide Financial overrode the company’s loan-writing policies to give a discount to Sen. Christopher Dodd, the powerful chairman of the Senate banking committee, according to an internal Countrywide document turned over to congressional investigators and obtained by The Courant.

And this: Dodd’s Political Stock Tumbles in Connecticut:

As head of the banking panel, Dodd, 64, has become a convenient target for voter anger over the economic crisis. . . . Some of the worst blows came amid the furor over $165 million in bonuses American International Group Inc. paid some of its employees while receiving billions of dollars in federal bailout money. After first denying it, Dodd admitted he agreed to a request by Treasury Department officials to dilute an executive bonus restriction in the big economic stimulus bill that Congress passed last month. The change to Dodd’s amendment allowed AIG to hand out the bonuses and sparked a blame game between Dodd and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner.

Dodd was guarded Thursday when asked about Geithner. . . . He’s also under investigation by a Senate ethics panel for mortgages he got from Countrywide Financial Corp., the big lending company at the center of the mortgage crisis.

Then there’s the whole Irish “cottage” story, and more . . . .

UPDATE: A.I.G. Bonus Mystery Solved!

CHRIS DODD UPDATE: Connecticut Senator Draws Voters’ Ire for His Bonus Role. “Across Connecticut, anger is erupting against Mr. Dodd, the chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, whose stature in Washington once reflected the state’s beneficial ties with the financial industry. Now, he finds himself a symbol of the political establishment’s coziness with tainted corporations and a target of populist wrath over their excesses. . . . In dozens of interviews, residents said they were appalled by Mr. Dodd’s ties to financial firms and believed that he had damaged himself as he prepares to run for re-election next year.”

This will increase anger over the sweetheart mortgage deal from Countrywide and the whole Irish “cottage” business, too, I imagine.

CHRIS DODD spills the beans.

UPDATE: Dodd Facing Fresh Political Firestorm. “Dodd just admitted on CNN that he inserted a loophole in the stimulus legislation that allowed million-dollar bonuses to insurance giant AIG to go forward – after previously denying any involvement in writing the controversial provision.”

The country’s in the very best of hands. . . .

ANOTHER UPDATE: Stephen Spruiell; “Look, it’s hard to have any sympathy for Dodd — the sweetheart mortgage deals, the Irish cottage, the self-righteous grandstanding, etc. And as for the policy at hand, I agree more with Geithner and Summers than Dodd. But as for the politics, this AIG thing is blowing up in Obama’s face, and it looks an awful lot like his administration is trying to make Dodd the fall guy. I’m not so sure Republicans (or conservatives) should help.”

Plus this: “Ed Liddy sized up this situation when he got to AIG and came to the conclusion that the best course for taxpayers and for the financial system was to pay the bonuses. This gets back to something I wrote earlier: If Obama disagrees with Liddy’s decision, he should either A) fire Liddy, or B) fire the guy who hired Liddy (Tim Geithner). What he should not do is go along with this Kabuki outrage, in which official Washington pretends it had no idea that big financial institutions — especially failing ones — might need to keep paying their top employees competitive salaries.”

THINGS YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED THIS WEEKEND if you were out, you know, having a life:

A massive Cincinnati “tea party” protest. (Check out the aerial view of the crowd, below.)

More protests in Columbus, Ohio, Little Rock (more here), Kansas City, and Boise.

Still more on Chris Dodd’s Irish “cottage.” (More here, from the Hartford Courant, and from WTNH.).

The continuing relevance of Ayn Rand.

David Broder on growing Obama criticism. Plus, among Democrats, Worries grow that Barack Obama & Co. have a competence problem.

Chinese worries about the safety of U.S. Treasury bonds. (President Obama says relax, don’t worry.)

The amazing origin of Play-Doh.

The return of Gordon Gekko.

Passport security — still unimpressive.

And Tom Maguire does my job for me.

Finally: The “Boobie Bungalow.” Because everybody likes boobies!

WTNH: Dodd woes continue with Irish cottage:

Senator Chris Dodd always likes to talk about his Irish roots – especially around Saint Patrick’s Day – but details about his purchase of a cottage in Ireland are coming back to haunt him.

This week’s Quinnpiac University Poll indicates Dodd may be a getting a chilly reception from voters here in Connecticut. . . . Now, free-lance columnist Kevin Rennie has published a report in the state’s largest newspaper connecting Dodd’s purchase of two-thirds interest in a cottage in Ireland at a bargain price, to a man Dodd helped with a presidential pardon.

“The guy he bought it from was the business partner of a man he had gotten a pardon for from Bill Clinton the year before,” Rennie said. “Senator Dodd had paid a lot less for that two-thirds interest than it was worth.”

Much more at the link.

CHRIS DODD UPDATE: Dodd Draws Heat Over Cozy Irish Cottage Deal.

HARTFORD COURANT: Dodd Seen As Vulnerable in 2010 Race: “U.S. Sen. Christopher Dodd, already reeling from questions about his role in the Countrywide mortgage scandal and singed by the collapse of the nation’s banking industry, is being seen as increasingly vulnerable in the 2010 election.”

Plus, more questions about Dodd’s Irish “cottage:”

Mr. Dodd is busy these days blaming everyone else for the real-estate bubble and financial meltdown. But he owes his constituents and the Senate an honest accounting of his Galway property over the past 15 years. If its value grew with the rest of the area, he needs to explain why Mr. Kessinger handed it over for a song, why that isn’t an unreported gift under Senate rules, and what role Mr. Downe might have played as a middleman.

More broadly, Connecticut voters might want to know why their senior Senator has hung around for years with Mr. Downe, the kind of financial scoundrel Mr. Dodd spends so much time denouncing.

Indeed.

DODD VULNERABLE IN CONNECTICUT:

Sen. Chris Dodd has never been more politically vunerable than he is today, and he knows it.

A Democrat and the state’s senior senator, Dodd has been busy trying to repair his damaged image. My inbox has been flooded with announcements from his office. The Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs he chairs has conducted hearings of late on improving “transit systems” in the country and examining the regulatory gaps that contributed to the financial crisis. Today the senator condemned the recent violence in North Ireland. . . . The problem for Dodd is that little is likely to happen before the next election cycle that can repair the damage he has suffered. Dodd was chairman of the banking committee when banks were melting down. He downplayed the troubles at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, making him look out of touch when the federal government later had to bail out the two government-backed mortgage behemoths.

Making things look worse, Dodd was the biggest recipient of donations flowing from Fannie and Freddie employees and political actions committees, according to OpenSecrets.org . . . Then, of course, there was the “VIP” treatment Dodd received on two mortgages from Countrywide. Dodd has said that had nothing to do with his being a senator or the contributions he received from Countrywide. At the very least, Dodd should have known it was a bad idea to do business with the mortgage giant.

And there’s that whole Irish “cottage” thing.

EXCEPT FOR HIS SWEETHEART MORTGAGES AND IRISH “COTTAGE:” Dodd seeks more disclosure for financial instruments.

BILL ALLISON: Dodd’s Dealings Illustrate Holes In Financial Disclosure. “Note that Dodd doesn’t disclose the owners of the other 2/3s of his Irish ‘cottage’ — nor is he required to. Shouldn’t we know who politicians are buying properties with? Given the number of members who’ve run into ethical questions regarding homes and vacation homes (Sen. Ted Stevens, Rep. Charlie Rangel and Rep. Alan Mollohan spring immediately to mind) shouldn’t we have more disclosure about member’s real property?”

TIME: Connecticut’s Chris Dodd Faces A Backyard Rebellion:

Dodd is looking increasingly vulnerable. The silver-haired father of two young girls is facing his toughest re-election fight ever, and he doesn’t even have an opponent yet. (Though CNBC pundit Larry Kudlow and former GOP Rep. Rob Simmons have both expressed interest in running.) In a January Quinnipiac poll, 51% of Connecticut voters said that they would not vote for Dodd in 2010. . . . Much of Dodd’s current woes stem from a pair of mortgages that he must wish he had never gotten. His reputation still has not recovered from the revelation last year that he received a sweetheart deal on his mortgage, saving upwards of $75,000 courtesy of Countrywide, one of the biggest pushers of the subprime mortgages that have landed the U.S. economy in such dire straits. . . . These days being chairman serves only to remind voters of his own problems with Countrywide and, fairly or not, makes Dodd the face of two deeply unpopular bailouts of Wall Street and an only slightly less unpopular stimulus plan.

And this story doesn’t even mention the iffy Irish “cottage” deal.

POLITICO: Dodd’s Dangerous Wall Street Dance:

Just 18 months ago, Senate Banking Committee Chairman Chris Dodd slowed efforts to hike taxes on a portion of Wall Street bonuses, saying he was “concerned about the potential adverse effects” on investment and employment.

Now, as unemployment rises and credit markets freeze, Dodd is hunting for Wall Street blood. . . .

Like any Washington survivor who senses that the political tide is shifting, Dodd knows he must swim with it or sink in its wake.

And for Dodd, the danger of drowning is quite real. He’s up for reelection in 2010, and he has seen his poll numbers drop dramatically since a report last year about his alleged special mortgage deal from Countrywide Financial.

“Dodd actually is a vulnerable incumbent right now,” said Gary Rose, chairman of the government and politics department at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, Conn. “This is an effort on his part to once again re-establish himself as a man of the people.”

But can Dodd make that turn and still count on the support of financial services firms — or at least those that still exist — to keep pumping money into his campaign coffers? . . . Voters, wary of what seems like an endless succession of bailouts, want elected officials to come down hard on the industry and its once-extravagant executives. But Dodd’s contributor list reads like a who’s who of the economic meltdown: Citigroup, Bear Stearns, American International Group and Goldman Sachs are top campaign contributors.

If I were them, I’d try to take him out. As an example to others . . . .

UPDATE: I’m guessing that the whole Irish “cottage” thing won’t help his image as a man of the people, even in Connecticut.

MORE HOMESTATE COVERAGE of Chris Dodd’s Irish “cottage.” A reader comments: “Now they might call this a cottage in Ireland, but once-upon-a-time they were known as dachas, primarily enjoyed by the same unscrupulous sorts as Dodd.”

MORE PROBLEMS FOR THE DEMOCRATS FROM CHRIS DODD:

In handling its investigation of Sen. Roland Burris’s (D-Ill.) conflicting testimony regarding his appointment, the Senate Ethics Committee is finding itself in something of a quandary. . . . Ethics committee action resulting in an expulsion vote may be the only way to make the embarrassing fallout of filling President Obama’s Senate seat go away.

But any swift moves by the usually lethargic self-policing panel would be highly unusual and could lead to even more questions about whether the clubby upper chamber is singling Burris out unfairly. Even though members of the Congressional Black Caucus are no longer rushing to his aid, a bold ethics committee move could reignite the racial tensions surrounding Burris’s selection. . . . Meanwhile, it took a year of investigating for the panel to admonish former Sen. Pete Domenici (D-N.M.) for his role in contacting the U.S. attorney in his state about a pending federal grand jury probe into public corruption. The ethics panel has yet announce an investigation into Sen. Chris Dodd’s (D-Conn.) Countrywide mortgage and its favorable loan terms.

While they’re at it, there’s that Irish “cottage,” too.

TOBY HARNDEN: How politics works: Senator Christopher Dodd and his cosy Irish cottage.

Check out the picture of Dodd’s “cottage” (provided to me by Rennie), where he spends summers and which is looked after during the rest of the year by a caretaker. It’s not exactly the humble tumbledown abode with a leaky thatched roof, a fireplace with peat thrown on it and donkey tethered outside that the Senator might like you to envisage.

The nearby village of Roundstone is a celebrity hangout. . . . Given the Irish property boom, a conservative estimate would be that the house would be worth approaching $1 million, and very possibly much more than that.

So why hasn’t Dodd declared a more realistic true value of the property? No doubt he didn’t want to highlight the fact that he had a third splendid pile, to go along with his residences in DC and Connecticut, as he sought the presidency (remember how all those homes harmed John McCain?). Maybe he knew it would mean further scrutiny of his connection with the pardoned crook Downe.

Read the whole thing.

THINGS YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED THIS WEEKEND, if you were off, you know, having a life:

Chris Dodd’s iffy Irish cottage deal.

Hundreds protest Rep. Dennis Moore’s stimulus vote in Overland Park, Kansas. (Also here).

Foreclosure crisis — the fault of just five states?

Obamas war-on-terror policies — couldn’t he have just made George W. Bush his terror czar? Or maybe he did . . . .

People who pay their bills feel like suckers.

Advances in marshmallow roasting technology.

Advice for “tea party” organizers. More on that here.

BLAST FROM THE PAST: Remembering Chris Dodd and Enron. ” As a result of Dodd’s intervention, the SEC agreed not to issue a ban on the practice of auditing and consulting for the same client. Such practices have led to what Senator Barbara Boxer (D-Calif) called ‘the kind of hide-the-debt shell game that took place at Enron.’ In an ultimate act of hypocrisy, Dodd has now actually introduced legislation to ban accounting firms from doing consulting for companies it audits, precisely the same policy he killed when the SEC was considering it.”

Kind of got a pattern here, don’t we? Next we’ll find out that Dodd’s shady Irish cottage had a subprime loan . . . .

CHRIS DODD UPDATE: Hartford Courant: Dodd’s ‘Cottage:’ A Cozy Purchase:

The saga of Dodd’s lucrative Irish odyssey reveals that his two 2003 sweetheart loans from subprime mortgage titan Countrywide Financial were not the first time he enjoyed a financial advantage from a wealthy benefactor. The trail begins at one of New York’s most desirable addresses.

Read the whole thing, which shows Dodd in a rather shady light. Again. Note this bit:

When Downe agreed to pay $11 million to the SEC in 1994, he claimed he was virtually bankrupt. Six months later, he made $2,000 in contributions to Dodd, again listing his occupation as “private investor.” Must be a lot of loose change in the cushions at 25 Sutton Place, even in a “bankrupt” pauper’s grand apartment. . . .

In 2001, Dodd did the favor of a lifetime for his pal, Downe. The veteran senator circumvented the normal Department of Justice vetting process and got Downe a full pardon from President Bill Clinton on his last day in office. Dodd initiated the pardon request and included in his two-page letter to Clinton the tidbit that he speaks to Downe nearly every day.

Like I said, read the whole thing.