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Issa Says Bennett’s Staff Received VIP Loans

Sen. Bob Bennett (R-Utah) told the Salt Lake Tribune on Thursday that he is unaware whether any of his staffers received preferential loans from Countrywide Financial Corp., as Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) alleged this week.

Issa is the ranking member on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, and his panel is investigating whether Countrywide’s VIP mortgage program was used to try to influence public officials. He sent a letter dated Tuesday to the Senate Ethics Committee, saying that Senators or Senate employees received 30 loans through the program, the Wall Street Journal reported Thursday.

While Issa did not identify the recipients, he wrote that at least 12 of the loans indicate the applicant worked for “Senator Robert Bennett,” the Journal reported. The letter dates many of the loans to 2002 and 2003.

Issa does not implicate Bennett in his letter, and Bennett told the Tribune that his own home loans are not through Countrywide, which is now part of Bank of America.

Bennett, who lost his primary election in May and will step down in January, told the Tribune he would cooperate with any ethics investigation.

The Senate Ethics Committee dismissed complaints last year against Sens. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) and Kent Conrad (D-N.D.), who received loans under the program, saying it found “no substantial credible evidence” that the mortgages violated Senate ethics rules.

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