By William Warren
The real question is this: why isn’t Chris Dodd in
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
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
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.
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
It appears increasingly likely that Connecticut
voters won’t let their corrupt and out-of-touch Senator off the hook in
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