Scanning the front page of the Fargo Forum website today I don’t see a single headline about Senator Kent Conrad’s “VIP loan” obtained from countrywide CEO Angelo Mozilo. Doing a search for “conrad mozilo” on the Forum website, however, turns up a couple of Associated Press wire stories that were syndicated by the Forum, but nothing by a local reporter.
Guess the Forum doesn’t think this is a story. The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and all of the various wire services are covering it, but the Forum doesn’t consider it important enough of a story to put on their website (readers tell me there is a story in the print edition, however).
The Grand Forks Herald does have the story, however, and the headline is “Conrad says he got nothing special from Countrywide.” That’s an interesting comment from Conrad. If the Senator wasn’t looking for anything special from Countrywide, why on earth did he get in touch with the company’s CEO as per this New York Times story?
When Senator Kent Conrad of North Dakota wanted a mortgage for his beach house, he turned to a Washington insider, James A. Johnson, former head of Fannie Mae, the government mortgage giant, who then put the senator in touch with Angelo Mozilo, chief executive of the mortgage lender Countrywide Financial.
The ensuing telephone call between Mr. Conrad and Mr. Mozilo led to two Countrywide mortgages, including one in which the company bent its rules to give Mr. Conrad a loan.
Most of us shopping for mortgages don’t get to talk to the CEO of the company about our loan. And we don’t get the rules bent so that we can get a loan the company normally wouldn’t issue. And we usually don’t get points knocked off our interest rates, and fees waived, so that the loan costs us thousands of less dollars.
And there’s also the fact that Conrad continues to lie about his relationship with Mozilo. In a press release responding to this controversy Conrad says:
“I never met Angelo Mozilo. And in my role as a United States Senator, I have never done anything for Countrywide.
But clearly, from the New York Times article above and an Associated Press article, Conrad had at least one private one-on-one conversation with Mozilo.
When someone tells you they haven’t met someone you generally assume that they’ve never talked to that person too, right? Why is Conrad lying about his connections to Mozilo?
This is a serious lapse in ethics for Conrad, both in accepting this VIP loan and lying about his relationship with Mozilo, and one would hope that the North Dakota media doesn’t let Conrad make it all go away with a flat denial. As John Fund explains in the Wall Street Journal:
No one is suggesting the VIP loans led to specific government favors for Countrywide, but there is reason to believe Mr. Mozilo ordered the loans for some reason other than generosity. A perception is being created that a lot of people in Washington looked the other way as Countrywide spurred the nation’s mortgage crisis with its over-aggressive lending practices. Mr. Mozilo himself has become a political target after it was revealed he sold $474 million in Countrywide shares between 2004 and 2007 as the housing crisis built. Expect the “Friends of Angelo” to be asked a lot more questions about the special deals they got that other borrowers could only have dreamed of.
Update: It does look like the Forum is giving this story big play in their print edition, though why there’s nothing on their website is a bit baffling: