WASHINGTON (CNN) – Two prominent U.S. senators were cleared by the Senate Ethics Committee Friday after a year-long investigation into allegations they received special, unusually favorable terms on mortgages from lender Countrywide Financial.
The six-member committee, split evenly between Democrats and Republicans, found "no substantial, credible evidence" that mortgages given to Sen. Kent Conrad of North Dakota and Sen. Chris Dodd of Connecticut, both Democrats,
violated Senate ethics rules.
At the same time, it concluded that the senators "should have exercised more vigilance in (their) dealings with Countrywide in order to avoid the appearance that (they) were receiving preferential treatment."
In June 2008, it was revealed that Countrywide - one of the companies accused of fueling the subprime mortgage crisis - gave favorable mortgage rates to Conrad and Dodd.
The two senators were enrolled in Countrywide's "V.I.P." program, designed to process and fund home loans for certain customers and senior-level Countrywide employees. Some V.I.P. customers referred by former Countrywide CEO Angelo Mozilo were also known as "Friends of Angelo," according to the committee report.
The committee noted, however, that all V.I.P. and "Friends of Angelo" mortgages were required to meet standards similar to the company's other loans. It also found that discounts offered by the two programs were not the best deals available at either Countrywide or in the broader mortgage marketplace.
Dodd said he sought out Countrywide in 2003 to refinance his two homes - one in his home state of Connecticut and the other in the District of Columbia. He claimed that he never met or discussed the loans with Mozilo.
Conrad used Countrywide in 2004 to obtain a loan for a beach house in Delaware and an apartment building in Bismarck, North Dakota. He told the committee he "briefly" spoke with Mozilo about obtaining a mortgage for the beach house.
The committee concluded that neither Conrad nor Dodd sought to be included in the V.I.P. program. But once they became aware that their loans were "being handled through a program with the name 'V.I.P.,' that should have raised red flags," it noted.
Conrad and Dodd, who insisted they had not acted improperly, both said they were gratified by the committee's finding.
"While I should have shown more vigilance in the appearance of these transactions, the committee has concluded I did nothing unethical, and that is the truth," Conrad said in a written statement.
Dodd, who is facing a tough re-election bid in 2010, said he hopes that the dismissal of the charges "will go a long way towards restoring the bond of trust and confidence that I've worked long and hard to build with the people of (Connecticut)."
But "now that the facts have been aired and the lessons learned, it's time to move on."
The committee's reports on Conrad (pdf) and Dodd (pdf).
So sad...so now, where do we go from here...things are going to get worse before they get better...partisan politics is getting worse...no unifying here...just read these comments.
Yeah, and the Clintons weren't involved in WhiteWater either. What a cover-up.
@David August 7th, 2009 2:34 pm ET
You scratch my back and I'll scratch yours…..and no one will get in trouble
When you say "back", I think you are being too generous. I was thinking about 18-24 inches lower than that!
To all the whiners that wanted to see a couple of Democrats taken down, get over it. Either you trust the system or you don't, but don't pretend that the Democrats run the Ethics Committee. It's a bipartisan group. That means your Republicans cleared them too.
Can't wait to see if Fox News even reports on this.
I think it is about time people are held responsible for the words that come out of their mouths. I think it is about time to start pressing charges against people who lie or can not prove what they are saying about other people. That's what is wrong with this country. People can lie about other people and get away with it. I thought this is a crime.
wow...what a surprise....The Dems should be renamed Velcro because nothing ever sticks to them....
When you tell people something is "Free". You get line ups from people who dont even know what is free. You have nowhere near enough Hospitals. You make Health-Care free, and you will have line-ups from a "scatch to broken-limbs". I have seen it. So I know...
What a joke.
what in heck does your spirt have to do with this story. they are dems helping out corrupt dems. and the guys that started this housing problem,
For those of you hollering conspiracy, do you mean that the Republicans on these committees are in on it as well? Please let’s move on to solving real problems and stop these “white water” antics.
Great now explain what ethics are to Barbara Boxer. What do you expect from a party that sends Union Goons into Town Hall meetings to push the elderly around. This is the CHANGE they want?
Zero says " You have nowhere near enough Hospitals. ' You mean there are people who need to be in Hospitals now who don't have access? I don't think so. Our hospitals are more overcrowded now because we don't have preventative care that is taken in an office visit, not in a hospital.
I'm a capitalist. I believe in supply and demand. If there is a bigger demand for doctors, there will be more doctors. We can import all the doctors we need from other countries any time we want. There are many many jobs waiting to be filled, if you have the education to qualify for the positions. If you are smart enough to get into an MD/PhD program, your education will be paid for completely.
It appears politicians can "cross the aisle" in agreement. It just happens to be to help cover each other's behinds. Bipartisanship at it's best!
Right........cleared......doesn't say NOT GUILTY.........it's all in how you say it, isn't it ????
good for chris dodd
we shall stand united
and CHANGE IS HERE
When republican majority investigated Palin firing of her brother inlaw and conculded she did not break the law but acted improperly, they were fair. Now investigation including republican and democratic majority can not be fair?
Read between the lines:
"It also found that discounts offered by the two programs were not the best deals available at either Countrywide or in the broader mortgage marketplace." Those senators could have probably gotten similar deals elsewhere just for being who they are unfair as that is to the guy on the street with poor credit and little equity anywhere.
I guess the two exec's who testified under oath that Dodd & Contrad knew they were getting a special deal are now going to be prosecuted for lying under oath – right?
I have confidence that the people in Conneticut will be able to tell who is lying and who got special treatment.
Looks like the buddy system in the Senate helped these two skate.
The ethics committee may have been 50/50 Rep/Dem, but in the end, they are all politicians.
Now let's see if perjury charges are filed against the execs who stated otherwise.
Both these men should be voted out of office. Ethics charges should be done by an independent committee, not an in-house committee. Sarah Palin was deemed to have done nothing wrong by an in-house committee that she hired and these men have also been deemed to have done nothing wrong by their peers. I wonder how an independent committee would have judged these 3 people.
Culture of corruption in the Democratic party is rampant. It is surprising they even convicted William Jefferson with $90K in his freezer. Did you hear today that Pelosi bought 8 planes for Congress for a cool $500M. No problem – CHARGE IT.
I can agree on one thing and that is the country is more partisan than ever before and both parties are to blame.
Crooks love crooks so no surprise here.
Dodd will pay the piper on election day in 2010. We all know that he is a hypocritical crook!
Let me see! I would call this clear and transparent hypocratical, culture of corruption!!!! Also, PATHETIC.!.?!