Soon-to-be Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama and his team of vice presidential advisers may have one less name to vet today as news about Sen. Chris Dodd’s links to a “VIP” loan became public.
Dodd, the five-term senior senator from Connecticut, is reportedly among the list of 20 potential candidates Obama is considering for a running mate.
According to a report released by Condé Nast Portfolio, Dodd received highly favorable loans under the designation "Friend of Angelo," a reference to embattled Countrywide Financial Corp. head Angelo Mozilo.
Dodd, who chairs the Senate Banking Committee, received loans from Countrywide that reportedly saved him tens of thousands of dollars. He was not alone, however. Fellow Sen. Kent Conrad of North Dakota also is named as a recipient of special-consideration loans from the beleaguered lender.
Countrywide is the same bank involved in the loan scandal that caused Obama's vice presidential research team chief James Johnson to resign amid criticism over his personal loan deals with the lender. Johnson had served on the vetting team with former first daughter Caroline Kennedy and former Deputy Attorney General Eric Holder until his departure earlier this week.
According to the Condé Nast report, Dodd received two 30-year loans from Countrywide: one in 2003, and one in 2004. Dodd refinanced his Washington townhouse with a loan of $506,000 and refinanced his East Haddam home for $275,042.
Both loans were designed to be at 4.875 percent, but the East Haddam loan was reduced to 4.5 percent and the Washington loan was dropped to 4.25 percent, saving Dodd about $58,000 on his Washington home and $17,000 on his East Haddam home over the life of the loans, the report states.
"The Dodds received a competitive rate on their loans,” a statement released Friday from Dodd’s office declares. “They did not seek or anticipate any special treatment, and they were not aware of any.''
Sen. Conrad, chairman of the Senate Budget Committee and member of the Senate Finance Committee, also responded to the Condé Nast report saying, "I never met Angelo Mozilo. I have no way of knowing how [Countrywide] categorized my loan. I never asked for, expected, or was aware of any special treatment," he says.
The report says other participants in the company's "VIP” program include former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Alphonso Jackson, former Secretary of Health and Human Services Donna Shalala, and former U.N. ambassador and assistant Secretary of State Richard Holbrooke.
"This is a pretty serious thing,'' says State Republican Chairman Christopher Healy, who is calling for Dodd to hold a full-scale news conference to explain everything.
"I know if a Republican did [this], it would be tar-and-feather time. [Dodd] has been very quick to criticize the Bush administration for its ethical lapses.''
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