House GOP chair got discounted loan

AP News
Posted: Jan 17, 2012 11:02 PM
House GOP chair got discounted loan

The House Republican campaign chairman, Rep. Pete Sessions of Texas, has been notified that he received a discounted mortgage from the former Countrywide Financial Corp.

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.

Rep. Elijah Cummings, ranking Democrat on the Oversight Committee, wrote a letter to committee Chairman Darrell Issa, saying documents received by the committee indicate McKeon "obtained a significant discount on his VIP loan as a direct result of personal intervention by Countrywide CEO Angelo Mozilo."

McKeon spokeswoman Alissa McCurley said: "Mr. McKeon is committed to transparency on this. He believes that the actions of Countrywide should be looked into and wants to get to the bottom of what Countrywide did to his loan 13 years ago."

The others who received discounts are Rep. Elton Gallegly, R-Calif., and Rep. Edolphus Towns, D-N.Y. All four denied that they were aware of receiving any sweetheart deals from Countrywide.

Miller, the Sessions spokeswoman, said in a statement, "Out of an abundance of caution in managing his personal finances, Congressman Sessions specifically requested that he not be extended any special benefits or treatment from Countrywide.

"Everything about his experience suggests that his simple request was honored and that he was treated like every other customer. Congressman Sessions welcomes providing any details requested by any House Committee about this loan, which no longer exists."

Miller said Sessions received a $1 million loan in 2007 for his Texas home, but does not know whether that's the loan under investigation.

Countrywide, once the country's largest lender, played a major role in the collapse of the housing market because of its subprime mortgages. It was purchased by Bank of America, which has complied with a subpoena for Countrywide records from the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. That panel turned the records over to the ethics committee.

While Countrywide was issuing its subprime mortgages, it was taking care of prominent individuals including government officials. Some of the VIP's were placed in a "Friends of Angelo" unit, a reference to then Countrywide CEO Mozilo.

Mozilo ended up paying a $67.5 million penalty in a settlement with the Securities and Exchange Commission.