Members of Congress Received “VIP” Loans from Countrywide

Monday, July 09, 2012

Before it nearly imploded and was bought out by Bank of America during the 2008 financial crisis, Countrywide Financial used a VIP program to loan money to members of Congress as a way to influence their decision-making.

At least seven current and former lawmakers, three from California, accepted loans from the mortgage company, according to a report from the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. The committee is chaired by Representative Darrell Issa, a Republican from California.

Senators accepting the loans were Kent Conrad (D-North Dakota), chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, and Christopher Dodd (D-Connecticut), who is now out of office.

House members were Buck McKeon (R-California), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, Edolphus Towns (D-New York), Pete Sessions (R-Texas), Elton Gallegly (R-California) and Tom Campbell (R-California), who has since left Congress.  

Countrywide also gave loans to key congressional staffers and executive branch officials, as well as senior executives at Fannie Mae, the government-sponsored mortgage giant that was bailed out by Washington.

Most of the lawmakers who received VIP loans also accepted tens of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from Countrywide. They were Sessions ($38,750), Dodd ($20,000), McKeon ($18,000), Gallegly ($16,120), Conrad ($9,000) and Towns ($3,500).

The chief advantage of VIP loans was the reduction of points and the waiving of other fees. Rep. Sessions accepted his loan, but declined the VIP discount.

In January, the top Democrat on Issa’s committee blasted his chairman over what he considered preferential treatement of Republicans. He questioned why Issa asked that information which could identify current and former lawmakers be redacted after the names of two Democrats, Conrad and Dodd, had been made public in the early stages of the chairman’s three-year probe. The new information contained the names of four Republicans.

Issa, one of the richest men in Congress, has been a chief inquisitor of the Obama administration. He spearheaded an investigation of the Justice Department’s Fast and Furious gun-tracking operation that resulted in a contempt citation for Attorney General Eric Holder from his committee, probed the administration’s relationship to the failed solar company Solyndra and highlighted lavish spending by the General Services Administration at a conference in Las Vegas.

–Noel Brinkerhoff and Ken Broder


To Learn More:

How Countrywide Used its VIP Loan Program To Influence Washington Policymakers (House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform) (pdf)

Issa Report: VIP Loans Brought Influence (by John Bresnahan, Politico)

Lawmakers Who Took Sweetheart Loans Also Benefited From Countrywide Campaign Cash (by Dan Glaun, OpenSecrets)

Cummings Blasts Issa Over Countrywide VIPs (by Amanda Becker, Roll Call)

If You Can Afford to Pay $67 Million, You Can Stay out of Jail…the Case of the Countrywide CEO (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

Leave a comment