Senate Ethics Committee Will Not Punish Sen Dodd

Liberty Alerts, Corruption Chronicles

Judicial Watch, the public interest group that investigates and prosecutes government corruption, announced today that on December 20, 2010, the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Ethics (commonly known as the Senate Ethics Committee) dismissed a Judicial Watch ethics complaint filed against outgoing Senator Christopher Dodd (D-CT).  Judicial Watch’s complaint alleges Dodd assisted a longtime friend and associate to obtain a reduced sentence and ultimately a full presidential pardon from President Clinton for tax and securities crimes, in exchange for gifts, including a sweetheart mortgage deal that he failed to properly disclose on his Senate Financial Disclosure forms.

According to the Senate Ethics Committee response:

The Committee has carefully evaluated the allegations and information in your complaint…After considering all of the information before it, the Committee has determined that there is not sufficient substantial credible evidence of improper conduct or violation within its jurisdiction to warrant further action by the Committee.

In its response, the Senate Ethics Committee response defined its jurisdiction: “To receive complaints and investigate allegations of improper conduct which may reflect upon the Senate, violations of law, violations of the Senate Code of Official Conduct, and violations of rules and regulations of the Senate…”  The Committee’s letter was signed by John C. Sussman, Chief Counsel and Staff Director.

Judicial Watch’s ethics complaint, filed on April 24, 2009, provided substantial evidence that Dodd engaged in a corrupt quid pro quo deal to help a criminal business associate:  “This complaint concerns recent media reports alleging Senator Christopher Dodd used his position and influence as a United States Senator to intervene on behalf of his longtime friend and business associate, Edward Downe, Jr.  Senator Dodd is then alleged to have benefited financially as a result of his intervention, and failed to disclose the financial benefits by filing inaccurate Senate Financial Disclosure Statements from 2002 through at least 2007.”

Judicial Watch’s complaint alleges that Senator Dodd appeared at a hearing on behalf of Edward Downe, Jr. in 1993 to help Downe obtain a reduced sentence for violations involving tax and securities laws.  In 2001, Dodd ultimately helped Downe secure a full presidential pardon for his crimes on President Clinton’s last day in office, bypassing the normal pardon vetting process.

In 2002, Dodd allegedly received a significantly reduced, below-market sales price, for a two-thirds interest in a property located in County Galway, Ireland, from Downe’s associate William Kessinger.  (Dodd already owned a one-third interest in the property.)  Downe’s signature appears on the property transfer documents. He is listed as a witness.

According to the complaint, Senator Dodd, Chairman of the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee, allegedly failed to report the gift in 2002 and may have filed inaccurate Senate Financial Disclosure forms related to the property in subsequent years in violation of the 1978 Ethics in Government Act.  The penalty for filing false financial disclosure forms is $50,000 and up to one year in prison.  (After Judicial Watch filed its Senate Ethics complaint, Dodd amended his Senate financial disclosure forms. However, the property may yet remain undervalued.)

“The evidence indicates Dodd helped out a crooked friend, received a cut-rate real estate deal on a property in Ireland in exchange, and then lied on his financial disclosure forms to cover it all up.  This type of behavior is potentially criminal and certainly unethical, and it is shameful the Senate Ethics Committee failed to take this matter seriously,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton.  “The Senate Ethics Committee sat on our complaint for nearly two years, and then dismissed it out of hand days before Dodd’s Senate career ends.  Even in corrupt Washington, the Ethics Committee’s despicable handling of the Dodd matter is about as bad it gets.  No wonder Congress’s approval rating is just 13%, an all-time low.”

The Senate Ethics Committee is made up of an equal number of Democrats and Republicans.  Its current members are Barbara Boxer, D-California, Chairman; Johnny Isakson, R-Georgia, Vice Chairman; Mark L. Pryor, D-Arkansas; Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio; Pat Roberts, R-Kansas; James E. Risch, R-Idaho.

In 2008, Senator Dodd came under fire for receiving preferential loan terms from Countrywide Financial as a member of the company’s “VIP Program.”  Ethics Committee Chair Barbara Boxer just made Judicial Watch’s 2010 list of Washington’s “Ten Most Wanted Corrupt Politicians” for her conflicted handling of the Countrywide scandal.

Used with permission of Judicial Watch.