Dodd Takes the Lead in ‘First Democrat to Jail’ Betting Pool
False disclosures, conflicts of interest, lying about the implications of his new disclosures… he’s really racked up quite a list of offenses in one financial filing:
A new appraisal of the Irish cottage owned by Sen. Christopher Dodd concludes that it is worth about three times as much as Dodd has been reporting on his financial disclosure forms…
Dodd has been criticized for understating the value of the cottage in his disclosure forms. Questions also have been raised about his original purchase of the cottage with a Kansas City businessman, William Kessinger, whom he met through longtime friend and campaign contributor Edward Downe.
It is unclear when the new appraisal was done, although a spokesman for Dodd said Friday that it was after questions arose in the press about the cottage and its value earlier this year. Courant columnist Kevin Rennie had raised the questions.
“The value of the cottage — or of Irish real estate, generally — isn’t something that the Dodds have thought much about. However, questions have been raised and they recognize that it’s important to make a good-faith effort at valuation for the Senate financial disclosures,” spokesman Bryan DeAngelis said.
Dodd’s new disclosure form also shows that his wife, Jackie Clegg Dodd, has received compensation from three of the four health care companies on whose boards she sits.
Clegg Dodd is on the boards of Brookdale Senior Living, Cardiome Pharma Corp., Javelin Pharmaceuticals and Pear Tree Pharmaceuticals, although she did not receive any income from Pear Tree, a Cambridge, Mass.-based firm that is developing drugs for aging women.
Dodd will play a key role in shaping health care policy as the No. 2 Democrat on the Senate’s Committee On Health, Education, Labor and Pensions. Committee Chairman Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., is being treated for brain cancer and has deputized Dodd to lead the charge for health care reform in his absence…
Merrick Alpert, a Democrat who is running for the Senate seat now held by Dodd, also chimed in. “While the retirement and college funds of Connecticut citizens have been cut in half, it is painful to watch Sen. Dodd’s foreign investment triple in value,” Alpert said. “The fact that Mrs. Dodd receives a half-million dollars a year to sit on the boards of companies that are regulated by Sen. Dodd’s committee is further evidence of the need to clean up the corrupt system in Washington…”
The purchase price for the three-bedroom cottage was $160,000, Galway County records show. Dodd contributed $12,000 toward the down payment and owned one-third of the cottage, while Kessinger owned two-thirds.
In a March interview with The Courant, Dodd said he brought Kessinger on board in part because, financially, “it would have been tight” to purchase it solo. But he said he did not remember why he and Kessinger did not split the purchase 50-50.
Dodd said that Kessinger had visited Ireland several times and had long believed that owning property in the country would be a good investment.
“We thought that we would use it occasionally, let family and friends use it and then rent it out,” Dodd said.
A couple from Dublin is now renting the cottage for the year, although it typically attracts renters only for weekends or during the summer because it does not have central heating, relying instead on plug-in electric radiators in the winter.
After Dodd and Jackie Clegg were married in 1999, they started talking about buying out Kessinger and that led to the 2002 bank appraisal, done by Matthew O’Sullivan, which valued the property at about $190,000, a 65 percent increase in value over what Dodd and Kessinger had paid eight years earlier.
Dodd has used that appraisal on all of his financial disclosure reports since 2002 even though the real estate market in Ireland boomed during that time frame.
Dodd also did renovations to the cottage that drove up the property’s value considerably.
In his new appraisal, O’Sullivan said that despite the improvements, which include a new kitchen and impressive stonework, the house is still suitable only as a summer cottage.
The appraisal doesn’t include comparisons of what homes in Galway County are sell for now or provide standard information such as the type of heating system and construction, normally included on appraisals filed in Galway County.
So Dodd’s residence is only usable in the summertime, but it’s rented out for the whole year right now, and he won’t disclose information about the heating system, nor compare its value to comparable Galway homes. He has been filing false disclosures for years – using an outdated appraisal which ignores improvements he made. He only revised the estimated value upward after two consecutive years of collapsing real estate prices in Ireland (others have estimated that at its peak, the cottage was probably worth over $1 million).
His excuse for all this is that he never really cared about the value of his property.
But this is not a question of the value of his property. Senate rules require him to provide a good-faith estimate of the worth of his investment. So Dodd can’t get away by saying he’s not concerned with real estate prices. In reality, he was not concerned about obeying Senate rules.
And given that his wife’s employers were going to disclose her compensation – and expose his massive conflict of interest on health care reform – Dodd should clearly have addressed the problem early. It seems that he preferred to let the press discover his unethical behavior, rather than try to get ahead of the story. He’ll regret that decision.
I wonder how much of a bump Merrick Alpert will get in the polls?