Portfolio has much, much more on the “Friends of Angelo” program that got Jim Johnson booted from Obama’s veep-selection team. This bit about Sen. Chris Dodd, a Connecticut Democrat, was particularly interesting:
Senator Dodd received two loans in 2003 through Countrywide’s V.I.P. program. He borrowed $506,000 to refinance his Washington townhouse, and $275,042 to refinance a home in East Haddam, Connecticut. Countrywide waived three-eighths of a point, or about $2,000, on the first loan, and one-fourth of a point, about $700, on the second, according to internal documents. Both loans were for 30 years, with the first five years at a fixed rate.
The interest rate on the loans, originally pegged at 4.875%, was reduced to 4.25% on the Washington home and 4.5% on the Connecticut property by the time the loans were funded. The lower rates save the senator about $58,000 on his Washington residence over the life of the loan, and $17,000 on the Connecticut home. The former employee says the float-downs were free. Senator Dodd’s wife, Jackie Clegg, said in a brief interview that two other lenders they checked with offered comparable interest rates. The senator’s office said Thursday afternoon that it is preparing a response.
Chris Dodd is, of course, the Chris Dodd of the Dodd-Shelby housing bailout which Congress intends to send to President Bush for his signature this month (though Bush has threatened to veto it). Heritage’s David C. John writes that Dodd-Shelby is “essentially a government buyout of problem mortgages disguised as a refinancing plan.” Needless to say, Countrywide — the biggest mortgage lender in the country — has a lot of problem mortgages on its books right now, and Dodd-Shelby would be a massive subsidy for the company. I’d call that a pretty serious conflict of interest.