Dodd Looks to Distance Himself From Financial Firms
Washington Post Staff Writers
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
Sen. Christopher J. Dodd has been a friend to the nation’s largest financial firms for nearly three decades, and they have been his most generous donors. But now he finds himself in political trouble, and is trying to prove the relationship is over………..
He has been a member of the banking committee since he began serving in the Senate in 1981, and he represents a state where more than 10 percent of the workforce is employed in the financial services industry. The industry has been his single largest source of campaign funding, contributing $11.7 million since 1989, according to OpenSecrets.org.Citigroup’s political action committee and its employees have given Dodd $427,000 during his political career, the largest sum he has received from any company, according to OpenSecrets, whose analysis does not include the latest campaign finance report, filed last week.
But a Quinnipiac University poll shows Dodd’s approval rating falling from nearly 60 percent in May 2007 to 33 percent this spring. In a head-to-head matchup, Dodd trails former congressman Rob Simmons, a Republican who lost his seat in 2006. Stuart Rothenberg, editor of the Rothenberg Political Report, calls Dodd the most vulnerable Democrat in the Senate.
There were the allegations last year that he had received a favorable interest rate when he refinanced his home with Countrywide Financial, which classified him as a “Friend of Angelo,” referring to company founder Angelo R. Mozilo, who has since been charged with fraud in connection with risky lending. And there were negative reports in the Connecticut media related to his friendship with a board member at the investment bank Bear Stearns who was convicted of insider trading in 1993. Dodd denies he was involved in any impropriety in either instance.Dodd was also stung by the flap over millions of dollars in bonuses paid to executives at American International Group, the troubled insurance giant, which has offices in Connecticut and has routinely held fundraisers for the senator. The White House asked Dodd to reword a legislative proposal so the bonuses could be paid, he said, and the public ended up focusing its outrage on Dodd, not the Obama administration.
In 1991, Dodd introduced a measure at Wall Street’s request to allow the Federal Reserve to make emergency loans to investment banks, creating a federal safety net. He was an early advocate for legislation allowing banks to expand across state lines, clearing the way for the emergence of national franchises such as Bank of America. The bill finally passed in 1994. In 1999, he brokered a critical compromise to allow banks to sell securities and insurance, legalizing the merger of banking giant Citicorp with Travelers, an insurance and securities conglomerate.
During his presidential campaign, Dodd told the Birmingham News that he believed the rise of financial giants was good for consumers. “Consumers want efficiencies, too,” he said. “People don’t want to go to six different places for their financial services.”……