Ethics probe leak sparks whodunit on Hill
Lawmakers and staffers are puzzled over who leaked the names of three members of Congress who face an ethics probe over discounted loans given by the now-defunct mortgage lender Countrywide, according to The Hill.
Four current and former members of the U.S House are under investigation for allegedly receiving special treatment in Countrywide’s “Friends of Angelo” mortgage program, which granted loans at lower rates to politically connected clients. The program’s name refers to the former chairman and CEO of Countrywide, Angelo Mozilo.
Under House ethics rules, representatives and staff can only accept “loans from banks and other financial institutions on terms generally available to the public.”
Rep. Elijah Cummings (MD), the ranking Democrat on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, had urged the panel’s chairman, Rep. Darrell Issa (CA), to publicize the names of those under investigation. Issa spearheaded the investigation into the “Friends of Angelo” program after it was revealed in 2008.
Issa had previously said he would disclose the names of any lawmakers who received the VIP loans, but when he obtained information about the four lawmakers, he referred their cases to the House Ethics Committee without publicizing them.
The names of three of those four lawmakers, Republican Reps. Pete Sessions (TX), Buck McKeon (CA) and Elton Gallegly (CA), ended up being leaked to the press by an unknown source.
The three lawmakers where stunned by the leaks, and have all denied having any knowledge of being listed in the controversial program.
Some have pointed the finger at Issa, while others blame Cummings for the leak. But both lawmakers deny any role in the release.
“On its face it’s suspicious,” Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.), who sits on the Oversight Committee, told The Hill.
The House Ethics Committee has also denied leaking the lawmakers names.
Issa found in 2010 that Rep. Edolphus Towns (D-NY) and Sens. Christopher Dodd (D-CN) and Kent Conrad (D-ND) also received loans as part of the controversial program. He claimed that Countrywide had used to program to “build relationships with government officials.”
The Senate Ethics Committee subsequently cleared Conrad and Dodd of any wrongdoing.
Countrywide was acquired by Bank of America in 2008.