By James Hirsen
Copyright James Hirsen
Christopher Dodd is the former U.S. senator who represented the state of Connecticut for thirty long years.
As Glenn Greenwald reported in Salon, Dodd announced in 2010 that he would not seek re-election, but he came to the decision amid a cloud of allegations. When news stories emerged that he was seeking a lucrative post-Senate lobbying position, Dodd responded by telling The Hartford Courant that he would “not lobby, but, like [former U.S. senators] Hagel and Nunn, he may teach.”
The Connecticut Mirror quoted the then-senator as answering in an unequivocal manner the question surrounding his future employment by asserting the following: “No lobbying, no lobbying.”
In February 2011, though, Dodd did take one of the most sought after lobbying positions in the country; that being Hollywood’s top lobbying post, a new job in which he would serve as Chairman of the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA).
Dodd, who at best has a spotty track record of seeking legislation favorable to the entertainment industry and whose response to the hack of Sony’s computer network was highly criticized, has nonetheless been rewarded with a three-year contract extension.
Many questioned the original choice of Dodd to head the MPAA in the light of the following:
-Media reports emerged, which contained allegations that in 2003 Dodd received mortgages through Countrywide Financial on his homes in Connecticut and Washington, D.C., and that he had received favorable below market terms. Additional allegations involved the failure to disclose the highly favorable terms of the mortgages in any of the six financial disclosure statements that he filed with the Senate ethics office.
As chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, Dodd had proposed a program in 2008 that would assist troubled sub-prime mortgage lenders, such as Countrywide Financial, in the wake of the residential real estate crisis. In 2009 a Senate ethics panel said it found “no credible evidence” that Dodd knowingly sought out a special loan or treatment because of his position. However, the panel also indicated in an open letter to Dodd that the special program at Countrywide with the name “V.I.P.” “should have raised red flags…”
-Dodd, reportedly the number one recipient in Congress of campaign funds from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, denied rumors at the time that the two firms were having financial problems. He was quoted as saying that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were in a “sound situation” and “in good shape,” adding that to “suggest they are in major trouble is not accurate.” This was followed by the announcement of a federal takeover of the two entities at an estimated cost of approximately $200 billion.
-In 2009 The Hartford Courant published allegations involving Dodd’s acquisition of a vacation home in Ireland, which he had acquired by buying out the interest of his then-partner for a price allegedly based on a 2002 bank appraisal of the home, claiming that it was worth less than $250,000, while some observers estimated the probable value to be greater than $1 million.
Dodd’s former partner in the home had ties to Bear Stearns principal Edward Downe, Jr., who was convicted of insider trading but obtained a controversial pardon in the final days of Bill Clinton’s presidency, which was granted after Dodd had lobbied Clinton to do so. Dodd provided a new statement to the Senate setting the actual value of the property as $658,000.
-In 2009, after the federal government had spent nearly $170 billion to bail out failing insurance giant AIG, the then-Connecticut senator, as the Washington Post reported, “admitted that he had put language in the stimulus bill ensuring that contractual bonuses were paid out at companies receiving bailout money [including AIG], a day after saying he didn’t know how the language got in.”
In a New Haven Register editorial, Dodd was referred to as “a lying weasel.” According to opensecrets.org, Dodd has received over $223,000 in campaign contributions from AIG employees. According to Real Clear Politics, his wife, prior to being married to him, was a director for Bermuda-based IPC Holdings, a company controlled by AIG. It was also reported that former AIG Financial Products head Joseph Cassano personally solicited contributions by email from his employees in Connecticut.
The entertainment community in Hollywood often speaks about the terrible scourge of “crony capitalism,” which features corporate interests having undue influence on elected leaders to the detriment of the populace.
It is the height of irony that Dodd, whose resume is replete with allegations of cronyism, will remain chief executive of the MPAA until 2018. His new pay has not yet been disclosed, but according to tax records his past paychecks surpassed $3 million per year.