Shady Mortgages Plague Obama-Dodd Ticket

Amanda Carpenter
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Posted: Jul 11, 2008 12:27 PM
Shady Mortgages Plague Obama-Dodd Ticket

What do Barack Obama (D.-Ill.) and Chris Dodd (D.-Conn.) have in common besides being U.S. senators? Both received discount, backdoor mortgages because of their elite titles and may be on a presidential ticket together.

Dodd told reporters Obama’s presidential campaign approached him for “vetting papers” ---news sure to be a blow to their fellow senator and former Democratic presidential contender Hillary Clinton (D.-N.Y.).

Howard Wolfson, former Clinton chief strategist, said Obama was not making similar inquiries to Clinton “as far as I know” on Fox News Thursday, a day after Obama “forgot” to ask his donors to help Clinton pay off her multi-million dollars’ worth of campaign debts at a joint event with her.

Obama’s decision to approach Dodd presents some difficulties aside from the fallout Obama could face from passionate Clinton supporters who would like to see her become his vice president.

Rumors of an Obama-Dodd ticket highlight a recent controversy with Obama’s former vice presidential “vetter” and Fannie Mae Chairman Jim Johnson. Johnson was ousted from Obama’s inner circle after it was discovered he received a discount mortgage from Countrywide. Shortly after Johnson lost his slot, Portfolio magazine found Dodd also got a sweetheart mortgage from Countrywide raising questions about his bill to extend up to $300 billion on tax dollars to purchase failed mortgages from the housing industry. If passed into law, Countrywide would be the primary beneficiary of the money as the company is the largest mortgage provider in the nation

On July 2, Obama acknowledged he too received a discount home loan, known as a “super, super jumbo” from the bank Northern Trust for $1.32 million. The Washington Post reported the loan, obtained in 2005, financed a new Obama compound that came with “six bedrooms, four fireplaces, a four-car garage and 5 1/2 baths, including a double steam shower and a marble powder room” as well “a wine cellar, a music room, a library, a solarium, beveled glass doors and a granite-floored kitchen.”

The discounted rate Obama received from Northern Trust was worth approximately $300 a month. Judicial Watch, a conservative leaning legal advocacy group, has since filed complaints about Obama’s mortgage loan with the Federal Elections Commission and the Senate Ethics Committee.

"It appears that due to his position as a United States Senator, Barack Obama received improper special treatment from Northern Trust resulting in an illicit 'gift' which has a value of almost $125,000 in interest savings," Judicial Watch wrote in its U.S. Senate ethics complaint

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Obama’s home finances are also closely connected to his longtime friend and Chicago insider Antonin “Tony” Rezko--- a man Clinton called a “slumlord” during a Democratic presidential debate. The same day Obama bought his new home, Rezko’s wife, Rita, purchased land next to Obama’s home for $625,000. She later sold part of it to the Obamas for $104,500, which had the effect of making their yard bigger.

A federal jury found Rezko guilty on 16 of 24 charges of corruption for extortion, mail and wire fraud, bribery and money laundering last month.

Lingering questions about Obama’s personal finances haven’t caused any severe damage to his polling, but it does appear to be causing Dodd problems. A July 1 Quinnipiac survey found Dodd’s approval ratings sunk nine points since last year from 60 percent to 51 percent, his lowest ever approval ratings. The survey also found 62 percent had read or heard “a lot” or “some” about the special treatment Dodd received from Countrywide on his mortgages. 59 percent said “the matter deserves more investigation.”

"Sen. Christopher Dodd's job approval is lukewarm at best, especially given his 28 years of service in the U.S. Senate, the longest in Connecticut history," said Quinnipiac University Poll Director Douglas Schwartz, Ph.D. "This probably is a combination of his unsuccessful presidential bid and the mortgage scandal."