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Chris Dodd faces backlash back home

By
March 20, 2009

Democrats may want to start thinking about a bailout for Senate Banking Committee Chairman Christopher Dodd (left), whose political stock has slipped amid the financial meltdown.

As a five-term Democrat who blew out his last two opponents by 2-1 margins in a blue state that President Barack Obama won handily, Dodd, D-Conn., should be cruising to re-election in 2010. Instead, he’s feeling heat from a Republican challenger eager to make him a poster boy for the tumult in the housing and financial markets.


A recent poll showed former Rep. Rob Simmons running about even with Dodd, a former national Democratic Party chairman.

As head of the banking panel, Dodd, 64, has become a convenient target for voter anger over the economic crisis.

"The fact that we have been beaten up, beaten around the head for the last eight or nine months on a regular basis has contributed to it as well," Dodd said.

Some of the worst blows came amid the furor over $165 million in bonuses American International Group Inc. paid some of its employees while receiving billions of dollars in federal bailout money. After first denying it, Dodd admitted he agreed to a request by Treasury Department officials to dilute an executive bonus restriction in the big economic stimulus bill that Congress passed last month. The change to Dodd’s amendment allowed AIG to hand out the bonuses and sparked a blame game between Dodd and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner.

Dodd was guarded Thursday when asked about Geithner.

"This is obviously a matter that obviously should have been dealt with differently, but we are where we are," he said.

Republicans branded Dodd’s reversal "astonishing and alarming" and fingered Dodd as the top recipient of campaign cash from AIG employees over the years.

The GOP is slamming Dodd, claiming he is cozying up to Wall Street insiders, raking in bundles of their campaign cash, shirking his banking panel duties and running for president as the economic crisis erupted in 2007.

He’s also under investigation by a Senate ethics panel for mortgages he got from Countrywide Financial Corp., the big lending company at the center of the mortgage crisis.

A takedown of a national party figure like Dodd would be a coup for Republicans eager to rebound from their recent congressional losses.

"This is a state we will be actively participating in," said Amber Wilkerson, a spokeswoman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

Republicans are also turning a spotlight on Dodd’s longtime friendship with Edward Downe Jr., a former director of the Bear Stearns investment firm who was snared in an insider trading scandal. Dodd owned a condo with Downe in a fashionable Washington neighborhood but bought out Downe’s share in 1990 after learning Downe was under investigation. Downe eventually pleaded guilty to trading inside information.

During the final days of the Clinton administration, Dodd wrote a letter supporting a pardon for Downe. "Mr. President, Ed Downe is a good person, who is truly sorry for the hurt he caused others," Dodd wrote. The pardon was granted.

Dodd complained that the GOP is repackaging old stories.

"They’re trying to weave things together that have been reported on widely over the years," Dodd said. "They are taking some items that are frankly, old news, routine transactions, and trying to make more out of it."

Dodd has acknowledged participating in a Countrywide VIP program, which he said he thought referred to upgraded customer service. He denied asking for or receiving any special treatment when he refinanced his homes in Washington and East Haddam, Conn., in 2003.

"There was no sweetheart deal," Dodd said.

He faced criticism in his home state for not releasing details of his mortgages until several months after the controversy surfaced last summer. He concedes his sluggish response was a mistake.

The Countrywide controversy came after a failed presidential bid by Dodd that soured many Connecticut voters because he was out of state campaigning so much.

Dodd moved his family to Iowa for several weeks before the caucuses, adding to the home-state backlash.

Simmons is a former CIA officer who served three terms in Congress representing a Democratic-leaning district. He’s a fiscal conservative who split with his Republican Party on issues such as abortion rights and raising the minimum wage. He lost by 83 votes to Democrat Joe Courtney in 2006.

In a hypothetical 2010 matchup, a recent Quinnipiac University poll showed Simmons with 43 percent of the vote and Dodd with 42 percent, a statistical dead heat.

Democrats said they’re confident Dodd will rebound in the coming months. They note he has strong support among party activists in the state as well as nationally. Simmons could face a tough primary fight if other Republicans jump in, Democrats add.

"Senator Dodd will be fine when all the dust settles," said Nancy DiNardo, chairwoman of the Connecticut Democrats. "People are just really upset with everything that’s happening" with the economic crisis.

4 Responses to Chris Dodd faces backlash back home

  1. totalresearch40

    March 20, 2009 at 4:54 pm

    WHERE DID ALL YOUR MONEY GO?

    It was spent on things that you will not believe, like GPS and COOLING SYSTEMS, MICRO-COMMUNICATIONS, RADAR SENSORS,LEARNING AIDES, BEHAVIOR TESTING, ELECTRONIC SHOCK DEVICES and neatly packaged into a highly integrated self contained (HUMAN)biotechnology being! I am proof that scientists in this country have too much power and a thirst for changing what G-D made.

  2. griff

    March 20, 2009 at 9:59 pm

    “This is obviously a matter that obviously should have been dealt with differently, but we are where we are,” he said.

    Didn’t we hear this same line from Bush ad nauseum?

    I just love how the theme of the article revolves around party politics. No mention of what this actually means for the People, but just which party will or will not benefit from this politically.

    “Let me now take a more comprehensive view, and warn you in the most solemn manner against the baneful effects of the Spirit of Party generally. . . . A fire not to be quenched, it demands a uniform vigilance to prevent its bursting into a flame, lest, instead of warming, it should consume.” – George Washington

    We seem to complain when such massive legislation is debated at length openly in the media and in the capitol. We say we’re tired of the partisan bickering – just pass something already!

    So they drum up a piece of legislation that needs to be passed quickly or the sky will fall. There is no open debate and a mere hours between printing and a vote.

    And after it passes and we get to review it, the partisan bickering starts. No matter which way you slice it, we’re going to have partisan bickering. It’s the nature of the beast.

    I’d much rather have the bickering before the vote as opposed to after it. The more they debate, the less damage they do, and the more time the People have to voice their opinions. The more time we have to find these “mistakes” before they become law.

    “When occasions present themselves, in which the interests of the people are at variance with their inclinations, it is the duty of the persons whom they have appointed to be the guardians of those interests, to withstand the temporary delusion, in order to give them time and opportunity for more cool and sedate reflection.” – Thomas Jefferson

  3. almandine

    March 20, 2009 at 10:00 pm

    Dodd is just a crooked as the rest.

    Collectivism is slavery…

  4. Charlie Couser

    March 21, 2009 at 7:32 pm

    Chris ‘The Lying Dog’ Dodd is but another symbol of the cancer that has consumed both Washington DC and corporate America. This kind of crap will continue until ‘Wimp America’ decides they’ve had enough of these cancerous tumors, like Mr. Dodd, and starts performing radical surgery.

    Charlie Couser