March 20, 2009
For some years now, I've referred to Christopher Dodd as Connecticut's "other" senator, because few outside of his state knew who he was, while Joe Lieberman has been a household name for quite some time -- despite being Connecticut's junior senator.
I think Dodd has been, well, kind of desperate to become better known across America. You know, he'd like leave a legacy as one of our nation's greatest leaders. Unfortunately, even his failed bid for the presidency didn't do much for his name recognition, despite moving to Iowa to make good with the voters there. (He earned somewhere in the neighborhood of 0.2% of the vote in the Iowa caucus.)
You know the old saying: Be careful what you wish for -- you may get it. And Chris Dodd has been getting it in spades.
First there was the Countrywide mortgage scandal which revealed Dodd -- head of the Senate Banking Committee overseeing Fannie and Freddie, the institutions on which Countrywide unloaded risky loans -- as one of the recipients of sweetheart mortgages due to his "friend of Angelo" status. Despite promising to release documents that will clear his good name, Dodd has yet to release them.
Then came the news of Dodd's Irish cottage, which brings to mind a cozy little home on a hill with a thatched roof and perhaps a goat or two in the front yard. Turns out this "Irish cottage" is much larger than a couple of rooms and it's on ten acres near the fashionable village of Roundstone (where celebrities, like Dodd, love to gather). At first just a one-third owner of the property originally valued at $160,000, Dodd eventually bought out the other two-thirds from his partner at a bargain basement price. Also, on his Senate financial disclosures, Dodd valued the property between $100,001 and $250,000 - with the footnote "value based on appraisal at time of purchase." But it seems that values for existing homes in Ireland tripled between 1994 and 2004, and in 2007, a two bedroom cottage in Roundstone marketed for the US value of $918,000. Oh, and the guy who helped Dodd broker the deal? Well, Dodd helped broker Edward R. Downe's full pardon on Bill Clinton's last day in office for - insider trading.
Politics makes for strange bedfellows, especially when it comes to posh vacation homes overseas.
Now we come to the latest in the Dodd saga -- his part in the AIG bonus debacle. When news of the bonuses came to light, Dodd was among those whipping Americans into a frenzy about them, suggesting a heavy tax on the bonus recipients to get the money back. Yet when the "stimulus bill" was signed into law, it contained a little tidbit called the Dodd amendment, which allowed for companies receiving bailout money to honor contractual bonuses decided upon before February 11, 2009. When first asked about it, Dodd denied any involvement. A day or so later, he reversed course, admitting to it but couching his confession in the usual politico-speak about if he hadn't made that provision then other provisions would have been lost, blah blah blah, eyes glaze over.
Pssst: Guess who was the second highest recipient of campaign funds from AIG execs?
Dodd lied, faith in American politics died. Well actually it's been on life support for quite some time. Dodd just pulled the plug.
And taking a look back to ancient history, who can forget the tasty "waitress sandwich" Dodd concocted with fellow bloviator Teddy Kennedy at a fashionable DC eatery while their dates were in the restroom? Good thing he wasn't a Republican; he'd have been run out of office on a rail for sexual deviance.
They say power corrupts. Dodd has been in the Senate since 1980, and is a good candidate for poster boy for the case for term limits. He's up for reelection in 2010. Will Connecticut (full disclosure: my state) pull the Dodd lever out of habit? Or will they look for someone new to take the tarnished mantle of leadership to the drycleaners? That depends upon how well Dodd can recover. But when even CNN calls you a liar, prospects aren't looking so hot.
Like father like son? Dodd's father Thomas, also a senator from Connecticut, was censured in 1967 for diverting $116,000 in campaign funds for personal use and a number of other ethical sticky wickets. Dodd's been trying to rehabilitate his father's image. But who will rehabilitate the image of the son?