So after calling the CEO of a company with various matters before the Senate, asking for a loan and then receiving at least two sweetheart deals, Mr. Conrad now says: "I did not think for one moment – and no one ever suggested to me – that I was getting preferential treatment." Lawyers will immediately wonder if this isn't a version of the "ostrich defense," which judges describe during jury instruction as willful blindness or deliberate ignorance. For what other reason, besides preferential treatment, would one call the CEO of the mortgage company? Does Mr. Conrad call August Busch IV when he wants to buy a six-pack? [...]
The same goes for Senator Christopher Dodd (D., Conn.), who chairs the very Banking Committee responsible for drafting the laws that govern Countrywide's market. Mr. Dodd is still in denial mode, but so far no one has knocked down the Portfolio.com story that he received discounted loans as part of Countrywide's "Friends of Angelo" program. [...]
Democrats in Congress are trying to pass a bailout for mortgage borrowers and lenders like Countrywide, and they have been holding reform of Fannie Mae and its cousin Freddie Mac hostage to get President Bush to agree. Mr. Dodd is one of the main hostage-takers. It is time he and Mr. Frank dropped this political ransom-taking and finally subjected Fannie and Freddie to tough oversight. This means giving a regulator the power to set their capital ratios and portfolio securities limits, so that taxpayers have some protection against their potential losses.
Meanwhile, until it is clear how much Countrywide will benefit from Senator Dodd's proposed $300 billion mortgage rescue – and exactly how Mr. Dodd came to do business with Countrywide – Congress should call a halt to legislating bailouts. Taxpayers deserve no less.
WSJ: Investigate the "Friends of Angelo"
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