Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX) has become the third House Republican discovered to have received a sweetheart loan as part of Countrywide’s “VIP” program. The program became notorious when conservatives jumped on the revelations that Democrats Chris Dodd and Kent Conrad received cheap loans through it. But it was always clear that influence peddling is a bipartisan sport in Washington, and it was inevitable that some Republicans would get found out.
Sessions’ spokeswoman, Torrie Miller, confirmed that the congressman was told that records show he received the discounts through Countrywide’s VIP program.
Sessions becomes the fourth House member — and third Republican — whose records were sent to the House Ethics Committee for further investigation. The ethics panel will likely investigate whether the lawmakers received improper gifts and whether they performed any favorable actions for the lender. The four were notified by the House Oversight Committee.
Two of the Republicans play prominent roles: Sessions, as the person responsible for Republican efforts to maintain their House majority in the November elections and Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon of California, who has major influence over the defense budget as chairman of the Armed Services Committee.
Democrat Ed Towns’ name has also come up in the investigation as receiving special treatment on his loan.
House Oversight Committee ranking member Elijah Cummings is having some fun with this, by citing new documents showing that disgraced former Countrywide chairman Angelo Mozilo personally involved himself in the McKeon loan.
The letter from Rep. Elijah Cummings (D., Md.) said that Countrywide records obtained as part of a congressional investigation of its VIP loan program indicate that Mr. McKeon was given “a significant discount on his VIP loan as a direct result of personal intervention” by Mr. Mozilo, who ran the mortgage giant at the time [...]
The Cummings letter quoted an internal Countrywide e-mail regarding Mr. McKeon’s loan as saying: “Per Angelo—’take off 1 point, no garbage fees, approve the loan and make it a no doc.’ ” The e-mail appears to be referring to origination and other fees, as well as required supporting documentation, such as tax returns. Origination fees are normally cited in terms of points that are each equivalent to 1% of the loan amount.
The Cummings letter said company documents didn’t say whether Mr. McKeon knew about the supposedly preferential treatment. But the documents referred to at least three conversations Mr. McKeon had with company employees, according to the letter. Mr. Cummings quoted a Countrywide letter to Mr. McKeon thanking him “for allowing COUNTRYWIDE’S VIP TEAM to assist you with your financing needs.”
Everyone’s denying everything, of course. But this is just an example of how members of Congress play by different rules than you and me. If you scratch this itch, I don’t think there’s any question that you will find more sweetheart deals in both parties. And you’ll notice that Mozilo, incidentally, isn’t in jail right now for mortgage fraud.