It is the media who gets to decide whether scandals matter or not. While the media isn't ignoring the whole Blagojevich cess pool, we're not getting the steady drip drip on some of these other scandals. For example, The Wall Street Journal points out that Chris Dodd is still serving as Chairman of the Senate Banking Committee despite clear indications that he received sweetheart deals from Countrywide Financial which was just purchased by Bank of America which Dodd oversees. And Dodd, despite his promises, has still not released the details on the cozy loans he received as a Friend of Angelo at Countrywide.
With the opening of the 111th Congress yesterday, all of Washington is tingling with the allure of a fresh start. Not so fast. We've got some leftover business from the 110th Congress -- namely, Chris Dodd's July 2008 promise to release the details of his sweetheart loans from Countrywide Financial.Contrary to Ms. Fairbanks, this is a scandal that involves the Senate Democratic leaders because they allow Dodd to remain as chairman despite such a conflict of interests. You can add in the House Democrats keeping Charlie Rangel in his place as chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee responsible for writing tax laws despite his constellation of scandals, some of which involve tax evasion. Then there is the suspicious circumstances of his preserving a tax loophole for an oil drilling company at the same time that the chief executive of the company donated a million dollars to the Charles B. Rangel School of Public Service at City College of New York. It's not really much different from Blagojevich's whole pay to play schemes in Illinois.
[Review & Outlook] AP
The Connecticut Senator got favored treatment from the subprime mortgage purveyor, even as he was a power broker on the Banking Committee that regulates the industry. When the news broke, the Senator first denied that he sought or expected preferential treatment. He later admitted that he knew he was considered a VIP at the firm but claimed he thought it was "more of a courtesy." He also promised the Connecticut press that he'd come clean with the documents and details of the loans. But six months later -- nada, zip, nothing.
The rest of the press corps may have moved on, but we'd still like to know. All the more so because former Countrywide Financial loan officer Robert Feinberg told us last fall that Mr. Dodd knowingly saved thousands of dollars on his refinancing of two properties in 2003 as part of a special program for the influential. Mr. Feinberg also reported that he has internal company documents that prove Mr. Dodd knew he was getting preferential treatment as a friend of Angelo Mozilo, Countrywide's then-CEO, and Mr. Feinberg has offered to provide those documents to investigators.
Just before Mr. Dodd made his promise, Bank of America closed its acquisition of Countrywide and Mr. Dodd has continued to oversee BofA and the rest of the mortgage industry as Chairman of Senate Banking. He will now play a lead role in drafting legislation affecting the very business that gave him preferential treatment, yet he still refuses to release the mortgage documents that would illuminate this treatment.
But these are Democratic committee chairman so I guess Fairbanks is right and they don't matter. What really connects all these Democratic and Republican scandals is that they involve people in power taking advantage of their power to behave in ways that we ordinary folk couldn't get away with.