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Issa Revives Mortgage Probe With First Subpoena of New Congress

House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) used the panel’s first subpoena of the 112th Congress to renew his campaign to determine whether federal officials, including House and Senate lawmakers and aides, received special deals on mortgages and rental agreements.

The subpoena seeks documents related to Countrywide Financial’s VIP loan program, known as “Friends of Angelo.” It was issued Wednesday to Bank of America, which now owns Countrywide.

The requested documents include information about current or former local, state and federal employees, as well as Members and Congressional employees. The documents are requested by March 7.

“Countrywide orchestrated a deliberate and calculated effort to use relationships with people in high places in order to manipulate public policy and further their bottom line to the detriment of the American taxpayers even at the expense of its own lending standards,” Issa said in a statement. “This subpoena will allow us to obtain the information needed to answer the outstanding public interest questions regarding the full size and scope of the VIP program.”

Unlike a subpoena the committee submitted to Bank of America in 2009, the new subpoena does not require documents to be submitted to the House Ethics Committee if there are references to a current lawmaker or staff member. Under the initial subpoena, the Ethics Committee would redact names, addresses and other identifiers of Members or their aides before turning such documents over to the Oversight Committee.

Roll Call reported in October 2009 that the subpoena created the unusual circumstance of one committee effectively subpoenaing documents for another, which opened the subpoenas to potential legal challenges.

The House Ethics Committee has not publicly announced any investigations tied to the Countrywide mortgage program.

Issa authored a letter to Senate Ethics Chairman Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) in July 2010 stating that the subpoena had discovered 30 loans to Senate employees through the VIP program. The Senate Ethics Committee has not publicly responded to that letter, but it has reviewed loans made to then-Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) and Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) through the Countrywide VIP program.

The Senate panel ultimately cleared both lawmakers but chastised them for not being more vigilant about shielding themselves from the appearance of special treatment.

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