Senator Christopher Dodd (D-Conn) is at the center of negotiations shaping a bill that he promises will add transparency to the complicated, furtive world of financial derivatives, but he cannot remember how much he paid for his house on 10 waterfront acres in Ireland. No wonder confidence in government’s competence continues to erode.
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Dodd’s office told me early last year that he paid $127,000 in 2002 for his co-owner’s 2/3 interest in a house on 10 waterfront acres on the island of Inishnee in a tony region of western Ireland. The next month he told reporters at The Hartford Courant that since he’d also paid off his co-owner’s portion of their joint mortgage on the property, he really paid about $50,000 more than what he’d said.
A month after that revision, Dodd told Newsweek that he’d paid $207,000 for the 2/3 interest in the property that he’d purchased with a Kansas City real estate developer William Kessinger in 1994. The 5 term senator provided no details on what sort of Jethro Bodine ciphering he did to get that number.
None of those figures matches the amount Dodd reported to Irish authorities when he purchased Kessinger’s interest in the property.
The great reformer certified that $122,351.00 was the consideration he’d paid for Kessinger’s interest in a piece of property that’s value skyrocketed during the Irish property boom that began in 1994 and ended 13 years later.
Irish real estate documents bathe in secrecy not sunlight, so Dodd probably thought the public would never know the deal he enjoyed. That $122,351.00 price was another lucky Irish break for Dodd, just below the amount when a conveyance tax kicked in.
There was no property boom in Europe like the Irish one. By 2002, most real estate prices across Ireland had tripled. Nearby small houses on little land were selling for hundreds of thousands of dollars more than what Dodd paid Kessinger for his remaining 2/3 interest in the island Shangri-La.
For years, Dodd failed to note the growing value of his Irish real estate bonanza in his annual Senate financial disclosure. From the 2002 report until the spring of 2009, Dodd claimed the property was worth no more than $250,000. After his Irish real estate bounty became known last year, Dodd obtained a new appraisal of his Shangri-La. Last spring, he reported, two years into the Irish property bust, that the property was worth more than $600,000. He did not make the appraisal public. You don’t have to be Lloyd Blanfein to know that Dodd got a very good, undisclosed deal from Mr. Kessinger.
That lucrative 2002 transaction came the year after Dodd wangled a full presidential pardon from Bill Clinton on his last day in office for Dodd’s friend and Kessinger’s business partner, New York boulevardier and convicted inside trader Edward Downe. Downe had introduced Dodd and Kessinger, and served as a witness on the deed conveying Kessinger’s 2/3 interest to Dodd for far less than its value. In the 1980s, Downe subsidized and c0-owned a Washington condominium with Dodd until the investigation of Downe’s insider trading began to get hot.
Judicial Watch filed a complaint with the Senate Ethics Committee over Dodd’s failure to disclose the accurate value of the Irish property. That proceeding, of course, is immune from transparency. The Ethics Committee is so secretive that it will not tell Judicial Watch the status of its complaint a year after it was filed.
Dodd’s campaign finance reports may give a hint on what’s going on. Two months after the Ethics Committee disposed of a complaint against Dodd over his dealings with subprime mortgage giant Countrywide, Dodd’s campaign was still paying the law firm Perkins Coie. From October through December of 2009, Dodd’s campaign paid $77,688.18 to the firm favored by Democrats in trouble. In the first quarter of 2010, when Dodd was no longer a candidate, his committee paid Perkins Coie $46,844.13.
Dodd could be using campaign contributions from his friends in the finance industry to fend off another ethics investigation. Our old friend transparency, however, doesn’t make itself felt in important parts of campaign finance disclosures. Dodd doesn’t have to disclose if his campaign is paying for his personal defense in an ethics complaint.
Dodd finds it easier to impose transparency than to endure. He’s still keeping some big secrets of his own as he tries to rehabilitate his tattered reputation, and no one in Washington is shining a light on them.
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