Now that the Senate Ethics Committee has agreed to launch an investigation into whether two Democratic senators received preferential treatment on their mortgages, more Republicans are beginning to pounce as they sense a whiff of scandal on the Democratic side of the aisle.
On Wednesday afternoon, Reps. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and Mark Souder (R-Ind.) sent a letter to Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), who is one of the most aggressive investigators in the House but has not decided whether to launch an inquiry into whether lawmakers received special rates on home loans from Countrywide Financial. Waxman's Oversight and Government Reform Committee has investigated Countrywide Financial but has not scheduled any hearings about the company's relationships with members of Congress.
Issa and Souder's request comes two days after Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) jumped into the fray and asked for a House investigation. It's clear that Republicans smell a Democratic scandal, and are rooting for an investigation that shows more ties between Democratic members of Congress and Countrywide Financial, a mortgage company that is at the center of the nationwide housing meltdown.
The two senators in the middle of the allegations _ Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) and Christopher Dodd (D-Conn.) _ have denied knowing they received any special consideration. Dodd did acknowledge that he knew he was part of a VIP program, but says he didn't know what that meant and thought it was merely a "courtesy" for being a long-time customer.
"If the Oversight and Government Reform Committee doesn’t investigate these high-reaching corruption allegations, I don’t see how it expects to have any credibility in the eyes of the public,” Souder said. “To think that the Senate Banking chairman and the Senate Budget chairman--two enormously-powerful men--may have received improper benefits from the mortgage industry is very concerning, and our committee needs to investigate the matter. As we all examine what caused the housing crunch, we may find that key leaders in Congress were compromised.”
The reality is that the House does not have any authority to investigate ethical questions about senators _ that's up to the Senate _ but House oversight committees could launch a more general inquiry into preferential treatment for lawmakers and loans.
The Crypt will update when we get a response from Waxman's office.