Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Christopher Dodd Has to Go

I am not at all sympathetic of the plight of the automobile industry. The Big Three of Detroit have largely brought their terrible situation upon themselves through decades of bad decision making. In spite of this reality, I was offended when Senate Banking Committee Chairman Christopher Dodd (D-CT) informed the CEOs of Ford, Chrysler, and GM that if they wanted money for their companies, they needed to go. This is the same Christopher Dodd who has been on the Senate Banking Committee for years and oversaw the financial debacle of Wall Street that led to an $800 billion bailout at taxpayers expense. This is the same Dodd who has fueled record government spending for years that has led to our debt of trillions of dollars.

As chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, Dodd proposed a housing bailout on the Senate floor in June 2008 that would assist troubled mortgage lenders such as Countrywide Financial. Condé Nast Portfolio reported that in 2003 Dodd had refinanced the mortgages on his homes in Washington, D.C. and Connecticut through Countrywide and had received favorable terms due to being placed in what was later called the "Friends of Angelo" (Countrywide's CEO) program. Dodd received mortgages from Countrywide at allegedly below-market rates on his Washington, D.C. and Connecticut homes. Dodd has not disclosed the below-market mortgages in any of six financial disclosure statements he filed with the Senate or Office of Government Ethics since obtaining the mortgages in 2003. The Senator's home state Hartford Courant reported Dodd had taken "a major credibility hit" from the scandal.

If direct payment has influence, the problem is even more widespread. Countrywide has also contributed a $21,000 total to Dodd’s campaigns since 1997. Dodd has also received $70,000 in campaign contributions from Bank of America, which is buying Countrywide, in the last year-and-a-half before the Countrywide Financial loan scandal surfaced. Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are the only other Senators who have received more money from Bank of America than Dodd. However, no politician has received more contributions from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac than Dodd's combined $133,900.

Marcus Cicero, when discussing the Roman Empire, said "the arrogance of officialdom should be tempered and controlled..." Dodd's throwing stones in a glass house and maintaining a straight face in the process, is arrogance at its height. Senator Dodd needs to go and should be a part of a serious "house cleaning" that should be seen in both the US House and Senate. It is true that, in the end, many familiar faces like Dodd would disappear. That would be a face lift the US could afford.

Kevin Price is a syndicated columnist whose articles frequently appear at ChicagoSunTimes.com, Reuters.com, USAToday.com, and other national media. Kevin Price is Host of the Price of Business (M-F at 11 AM on CNN 650) and Publisher of the Houston Business Review. Hear the show live and online at PriceofBusiness.com. Visit the archive of past shows here.

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