Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., revealed himself again last week to be an unreliable source for explanations of his own actions.
On Tuesday, the five-term senator denied on CNN that he had anything to do with legislation passed in February that ratified $165 million or more in bonuses for executives at his generous campaign patron AIG, the financial giant sustaining itself on billions from the taxpayers.
A day later, Dodd returned to CNN to admit he'd done the deed that aided AIG executives.
Dodd's penchant for incomplete and misleading answers was on display a few days before the bonus firestorm when he discussed his real-estate dealings in Ireland and Washington, D.C., with two reporters from The Hartford Courant.
That house on nearly 10 waterfront acres in Ireland, the senator maintains, really isn't much. Only a rickety bridge connects it to the mainland. The Irish real-estate boom from 1994 to 2007, he says, missed Inishnee, the island he wandered onto in the late 1980s when he was recognized by a woman, an admiring Connecticut constituent. What are the odds?
The woman contacted him, Dodd says, several years later when she wanted to sell her property. He already owned two homes in America, so he recruited Kansas City, Mo., real-estate developer William Kessinger to buy it with him.
Dodd doesn't remember why he paid for one-third and Kessinger two-thirds. How can he not remember weeks after questions were first posed to him?
Dodd and Kessinger purchased the property for $160,000 in 1994 from an Irish real-estate company. That was higher than the average price of a house in County Galway at the time. Dodd says he and Kessinger intended to use it occasionally themselves, let friends stay there and rent it at other times.
Dodd was too modest in his description of what he could do with his lair. Inishnee's prospects as a place to make some money in real estate must have seemed brighter in 1998 than Dodd now recalls. He applied that year to carve 1.3 acres from his stunning retreat and build a house on it.
The minister of state at the Department of the Environment apparently weighed in on Dodd's application. A local official wrote to that Irish Cabinet member, I regret to inform you that permission to build had been refused. Does your local zoning commission send a letter to the secretary of the Interior when it rejects an application to build a house?
In 2001, a new bridge to Inishnee was completed, dedicated and blessed by a local priest. The next year, Dodd, armed with an appraisal by someone who must not have noticed the new bridge, bought out Kessinger's interest in the property for far less than what the property boom was doing to every other piece of real estate in Ireland.
Maybe Kessinger, who'd spent decades in real estate, wasn't paying attention to his investment in Ireland. He might have been devoting his time to increasing Kessinger/Hunter and Co.'s share of federal contracts. The company's business with the federal government rose from $288,000 in fiscal year 2002 to $528,343 in fiscal 2003, according to FedSpending.org.
Kessinger's friend, Edward R. Downe Jr., had been similarly helpful to Dodd in 1986 when Downe, a New York socialite and inside trader, purchased a Washington condominium with the senator.
In his Courant interview, Dodd said that Downe paid half the down payment, mortgage and condominium fees. Downe made infrequent visits.
Downe, as he was making millions through illegal trades in offshore accounts, subsidized Dodd's use of a condominium that the senator could not have otherwise afforded.
Around 1989, Downe told Dodd, then chairman of the Senate's subcommittee on securities, that the feds were investigating him. Dodd ended Downe's subsidy by buying his half of the condominium.
It was a lot less messy for Dodd to buy Downe's half of the condominium than for federal authorities to take it. They eventually wanted Downe's assets to satisfy an $11-million judgment. Dodd would reward his generous friend in 2001 by getting him a presidential pardon.
Even when they do things they shouldn't, Dodd takes care of the rich who've taken care of him.
KEVIN RENNIE is a lawyer and a former Republican state legislator.
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