The Dodd Couple
By William Warren
The real question is this: why isn't Chris Dodd in jail?
No matter how high his legal and ethical malfeasance seems to pile up, the senior Senator from Connecticut has demonstrated an uncanny ability to evade the consequences. One thing's for certain, however. He may not be able to evade his voters come 2010.
As a recent Time story points out, Mr. Dodd's dismal poll numbers mark him as one of the most vulnerable senators facing reelection next year. According to a January poll, 51 percent of Connecticut voters said they would not vote for Mr. Dodd in 2010—a grave statistic made even more significant by the fact that Mr. Dodd currently lacks an official opponent.
Nevertheless, for those of us who understand the breadth of corruption in which the Senator is mired, 51 percent negativity seems rather low—even in an increasingly blue state like Connecticut. Given his track-record, one would think he'd be out the door in a heartbeat—and in the slammer in two.
For starters, Mr. Dodd's fingerprints are all over the current economic crisis—particularly with regards to housing giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and the housing collapse of last year. As a chair on the Senate Banking Committee, Mr. Dodd repeatedly turned a blind eye last year to the financial calamity brewing at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac that led to Congress spending some $600 billion for their rescue. As he once defiantly said:
“The economics are fine in these institutions and people need to know that…These two institutions are fundamentally, fundamentally strong. There's no reason for the kind of reaction we're getting."
The last time a Senator referred to something as “fundamentally” sound—despite the fact that his words were twisted whereas Mr. Dodd's were plain as day—that particular Senator arguably ended up losing a presidential race because of it. That Senator, of course, was John McCain, who famously said during the midst of the financial meltdown that “the fundamentals of the economy are strong.”
And now Mr. Dodd may well be facing the same fate.
Losing an election, however, would be getting off easy for the Connecticut Senator. Negligence towards a looming crisis in crucial institutions like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac is one thing, especially when it's within one's own area of responsibility. Feigning ignorance because one receives top-dollar donations from such troubled institutions is another.
From 1989 to 2008, Chris Dodd ranked #1 in terms of campaign donations from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. According to OpenSecrets.org, Mr. Dodd received a whopping $133,900 in contributions from the imploding housing giants–only to be followed by former presidential candidates John Kerry, Barack Obama, and Hillary Clinton, all of whom were given far less.
Therefore, Mr. Dodd's failure to provide legitimate oversight of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, his outright negligence that caused them to fail while the mortgage giants were selling trillions of dollars of mortgage-backed securities all over the world with the implicit backing of the government, and then his subsequent, enthusiastic support for their ultimate takeover at the hands of the government, coupled with the campaign donations, all reeks of bribery and has the appearance of a quid pro quo.
Bribery, or the appearance thereof, however, is nothing new for the Senator.
A recent Hartford Courant article details another shady dealing regarding Mr. Dodd and the purchase of a particular house in the so-called “Irish Riviera.” As the article describes, in 2001 the Connecticut Senator lobbied hard for a presidential pardon on behalf of Edward R. Downe, convicted of tax and securities fraud eight years before. President Clinton ultimately granted Mr. Downe the pardon for which Senator Dodd had so fervently supported.
Suspiciously enough, a year later Mr. Dodd received a special deal on an Irish waterfront property from William “Bucky” Kessinger, Mr. Downe's real estate development partner and Mr. Dodd's acquaintance. As the author of the Courant piece explains:
“A presidential pardon is a rare possession, especially when the man pardoned, Downe, still owed millions to the Securities and Exchange Commission for his violations.
Rarer still, however, is the real estate developer, like Kessinger, who appears to have left hundreds of thousands of dollars in appreciated value on the table for his minority-share partner [Chris Dodd].”
Like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, Chris Dodd had a serious personal financial incentive to let Mr. Downe off the hook back in 2001.
It appears increasingly likely that Connecticut voters won't let their corrupt and out-of-touch Senator off the hook in 2010.
They certainly haven't let him off the hook for yet another shady housing deal that made headlines last year. In 2003, Mr. Dodd refinanced the mortgages on his Washington, D.C. and Connecticut homes through Countrywide Financial, receiving the sweetest of sweetheart deals.
According to reports, he saved over $75,000 thanks to the mortgage company. It is also worth noting that Countrywide—like Fannie and Freddie—also happened to be one of the biggest proponents of subprime mortgages and therefore an accomplice in the economic meltdown.
The Senator, of course, denies any preferential treatment or wrong doing. As the aforementioned Time article points out, however, 56 percent of Connecticut voters say the Countrywide scandal has made them less likely to vote for Mr. Dodd. It seems his constituents are finding it harder and harder to trust their Senator.
That being said, why isn't Chris Dodd in jail? His actions and behavior reek of political corruption at its most primal. In return for countless political favors to culpable institutions and criminal individuals, the Connecticut Senator has received a fattened wallet and a fancy home in the hills of Ireland.
Perhaps Mr. Dodd's situation is endemic to Washington politics as a whole. Perhaps Mr. Dodd's corruption hasn't been punished because those surrounding him are equally corrupt and equally negligent of bad behavior.
And perhaps the resounding message Connecticut voters are sending to Senator Dodd will eventually reach the rest of the nation as well. Maybe then the era of Big Government and tolerance of corruption will likewise be rejected.
William Warren is a Contributing Editor of ALG News Bureau.