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:
Four current members of Congress took part in the controversial VIP program run by Countrywide Financial, the now defunct mortgage lender, according to Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.
Issa made the disclosure in a letter he sent Friday to Reps. Jo Bonner (R-Ala.) and Linda Sanchez (D-Calif.), the chairman and ranking member of the House Ethics Committee.
Congress has been rocked by revelations of insider trading on stocks and commodities in recent weeks. Consider this the old-fashioned kind of insider trading, where Representatives and Senators receive unique deals from regulated industries as a means of increasing the firm’s political influence through increasing the bank accounts of politicians. House ethics rules prohibit any such transactions that give members a better deal than the public gets offered, but that only counts if the Ethics Committee decides to do anything about it. In the Senate, the full reaction of their ethics panel was that Dodd and Kent Conrad “should have exercised more vigilance.” Ow, Mommy, that hurts!
But who are the four? Rep. Edolphus Towns, who is the ranking member of Oversight and Issa’s counter on the panel, has already admitted to getting sweetheart deals from Countrywide, but claims he didn’t know that he was being treated better than the public:
Issa did not name the four members who received the loans in his letter to Ethics, but Rep. Edolphus Towns (D-N.Y.), the former chairman of Oversight and Government Reform, has acknowledged receiving two loans through the VIP program. Towns has stated that he was not aware of his inclusion in the program, known as “Friends of Angelo” within Countrywide. This is a reference to Angelo Mozilo, Countrywide’s former CEO.
Everyone who got the Friends of Angelo treatment claimed that they had no idea they had been specially treated, but that’s absurd. First, the entire point of a “Friends of Angelo” program is to make sure that the friends know they’re friends — otherwise, why bother? Second, who gets a mortgage without checking the market prices for the best deal? Are we to believe that Dodd, Conrad, Jamie Gorelick, and now Towns and the other three yet-unnamed FoA members just took the first loan they were offered without making sure that the terms were as favorable as they could get? That’s sheer nonsense.
Who are the other three current members of the House who got special deals from the now-defunct subprime lender that cost American taxpayers billions? I’d bet that … the Ethics Committee makes sure we never find out.