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Chris Dodd Dismisses Another Budding Scandal

Promoted by Mark Impomeni

This morning’s Sunday Courant brought with it more questions about the benefits Chris Dodd’s powerful position as Chairman of the Senate Banking Committee bring him, though this time the benefits are a half-step removed.

Over the past year, much has been made of the special treatment and sweetheart mortgage deals Dodd received from his friend, Angelo Mozilo, at Countrywide. Questions have been raised about a real estate deal in which Dodd apparently was given the opportunity of a lifetime to buy out a partner on a cottage in Ireland at a price that ignored the skyrocketing land values throughout the country (it so happens that Dodd had just finished using his influence to get a Presidential pardon for their mutual friend, a convicted felon). And  Dodd penned legislation that ended up allowing some of his government-bailed-out corporate donors to give themselves millions of dollars in bonuses.

With each scandal that has come to light, we have seen similarly inept damage control. Dodd’s modus operandi appears to be “pretend there is no issue, and my constituents will believe it.” While that may have worked earlier in his three decades in government, a very brief look at Dodd’s plummeting poll numbers leaves no doubt that this strategy has run its course.

Dodd has ignored the Countrywide scandal since it broke, with his inattention only slightly interrupted by a sham press conference in which he “released” some records by allowing a few select people to glance at several hundred documents. On his Irish troubles, the company line has been not much more than “we won’t dignify that with a response” and the occasional reference to a mystery appraisal. On the AIG bonus flap, his plan to lie about his role imploded when he was thrown under the bus by Obama, at which time he began ignoring the scandal.

As a dog returns to it’s vomit, so Chris Dodd is going with the bury-your-head-in-the-sand defense yet again. This time the charge is that his wife, Jackie Clegg Dodd, is making a cool $500k annually by serving on numerous Boards of Directors, jobs for which her best qualification may be that she is married to a US Senator. The response?

Clegg Dodd was dismissive late last week of any analysis linking her professional income to her husband’s political career.

“I’m curious if you would ask the same questions of a male spouse of a female lawmaker,” she said.

More dismissive attitude, with a little half-hearted gender discrimination thrown in for some variety.

Now I have no idea how Ms. Clegg Dodd was chosen for these positions. She is not entirely unqualified for at least some of them, having served as a staffer to the the Banking and Appropriations committees in the senate, which led to a position at the Export-Import Bank of the US, followed by a stint as a self-employed consultant. However, they look more questionable when you find out that she is flagged as a financial expert on the audit committees of two of the Boards. These positions, sinceSarbanes-Oxley , are typically reserved for accountants with substantial experience who are able to review their company’s books, identify potential problems and have enough credibility to challenge suspicious activity. Some are not so sure she fits the bill. One example:

An official familiar with the [Export-Import] bank’s operations said that Clegg Dodd’s duties at the bank involved, for the greater part, administration and public and congressional relations. The official, who asked not to be identified for fear of offendingDodd, said he does not believe that Clegg-Dodd’s legislative and banking experience qualified her as an audit committee expert.

The opinions cited in the article are certainly not dispositive, and I suppose there may be an explanation out there. But Dodd has apparently chosen not to substantively address it. Instead of taking the challengers head on and showing that her resume is equivalent to the others on the Board, or giving us another reasonable basis for her inclusion in these positions besides her husband’s job, it is simply dismissed out of hand.

I refuse to believe that after watching his approval numbers freefall for the past year, Dodd is ignorant enough to think people will just move on. Not if there were legitimate explanations.

All the avoidance, in this case and each of the others, just makes him look guilty. And it is Dodd that would be guilty here, which is why this story is important. As a general rule, I couldn’t care less about the spouse of a politician, including what they do for a living. But when they are potentially being used as a conduit to line the pockets of their spouse, this is a legitimate line of inquiry. And one that Dodd could put to bed without too much trouble, if there was nothing there. But instead he is again choosing to ignore it.

I believe he does so at his peril.

Cross-posted at The Artful Doddger.

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