Corruption isn’t unique to one party or another (Duke Cunningham, anyone?), but sometimes it seems the Democrats are so deeply mired in it that they’ve lost any ability to feel shame or to recognize that they should feel ashamed. Or even to keep their lies straight. Jim Geraghty at National Review reports that Chris Dodd is again changing his story about the sweetheart loans he received from defunct lender Countrywide:
Sen. Chris Dodd, defending himself from accusations that he received improper special treatment on his mortgage, in June of last year: “I guess so, yeah, I don’t know what the rates are today.”
Mrs. Dodd, in February: “Mrs. Dodd said she did most of the negotiations regarding the loans and when she asked about what the VIP program was she was told it meant nothing more than getting an actual person on the phone when she called. She said she never met any of the loan officers in person. She said in 2003 they decided to stay with Countrywide because ‘it was easier to stay with our current lender than move to a new one.'”
Those two comments suggest that the Dodds didn’t look around for other options, and preferred the simplicity of staying with Countrywide.
Sen. Chris Dodd, defending himself from accusations that he received improper special treatment on his mortgage, today: “We negotiated loans. We shopped.”
So Dodd, longtime member of the Banking Committee, didn’t know the rates, and he and his wife chose Countrywide out of simplicity, until now, when they say they chose them because they shopped around?
Next Dodd will claim Angelo tricked him into taking those special rates as part of a Karl-Rove plot. Yeah, that’s it…
Senator Dodd isn’t the only donkey Democrat caught up in this mess: Senator Kent Conrad (D-ND) also got special treatment from Countrywide. (Fair disclosure: so did Bush HUD Secretary Alphonso Jackson) Like Dodd, he claims not to have known he was getting the “friends rate” on his mortgage interest. In an editorial linked to the Geraghty piece, the editors of National Review call foul on both men by quoting the testimony of the man who handled their accounts:
Senators Dodd and Conrad have protested that they did not know that they were being given preferential treatment. We therefore are implicitly asked to believe that the gentle souls at Countrywide were forgoing profits on loans to influential politicians out of a sense of public-spiritedness, and were carefully concealing the sweetheart deals from their beneficiaries. One might hope that the two men who would go on to chair the Senate Banking Committee and the Senate Budget Committee would recognize unusual financial arrangements when they saw them — and signed their names to them. But whether either of these two possesses the financial acumen to assess the sweetness of a mortgage, their banker, Robert Feinberg of Countrywide’s VIP operation, now informs congressional investigators that both men knew they were getting preferential treatment.
“Who you know is basically how you’re coming in here,” Feinberg said. “You don’t say ‘no’ to the VIP.” Pressed directly about whether Senator Conrad was aware of the arrangement, Feinberg said, “Yes, he was aware.” Dodd, too? “Yes, yes.”
Corruption at any time is unacceptable, but it’s especially so when the Federal government is moving heaven and earth (and spending vast sums of money) to take over large segments of the economy. When the stakes are so great, the temptation to make a deal for oneself is almost irresistible. Corruption and venality are inevitable somewhere in the system.
At the same time, there is nonetheless an obligation of honor and responsibility to the public. (Oh, stop laughing.) These leaders oversea important areas of the government and the economy: they spend our money, wield great power, and are demanding more of both as part of President Obama’s New-New Deal. Yet they’ve been revealed to be petty, self-dealing wretches and liars who treat their responsibilities as their right – public servants who see themselves as the public’s masters.
Again, this is unacceptable in any politician at any time; it’s too much to expect the Senate in it’s current configuration to expel Conrad and Dodd for corruption (and with their party engaging in so much of it), but one can hope that their constituents will remember this in 2010 and 2012. If not, then the voters will get the republic they deserve.
UPDATE: Reader TLC in the comments offers a link to a Huffington Post article that disputes whether Dodd knew he was getting special treatment or even if he got special treatment at all.