Cummings Asks Whether Issa Will Push Probe of GOP Mortgages
Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) today sent a letter to Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) asking how he plans to proceed with his investigation of lawmakers tied to a controversial mortgage program after reports surfaced over the weekend that the previously unidentified Members of Congress involved in the case are Republicans, including the chairman of an influential committee.
In the letter, Cummings, ranking member of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, asked Chairman Issa whether he plans to publicly identify the lawmakers in question and how he intends to proceed with scheduled interviews of Countrywide officials since he also asked the House Ethics Committee to open its own inquiry in December.
“Since you failed to consult with me before taking these actions, I have several questions about how you want to proceed with the investigation,” Cummings wrote.
Since 2008, Issa has been investigating which Members of Congress participated in a VIP program offered by the now-defunct mortgage giant Countrywide Financial Corp. Documents produced in response to a subpoena issued on March 7, 2011, showed four additional lawmakers received loans through the “Friends of Angelo” program — named for the company’s former CEO Angelo Mozilo — including House Armed Services Chairman Buck McKeon and Rep. Elton Gallegly, both Republicans from Southern California, where Countrywide was based.
Other lawmakers who have been publicly linked to the program, which offered Members discounts on mortgages as a way to curry favor, include Rep. Edolphus Towns (D-N.Y.), Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) and former Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.). The Senate Ethics Committee in August 2009 concluded that there was “no credible evidence” that Conrad and Dodd had knowingly participated in a loan program not available to the public. Press reports have focused on mortgages that Towns received for properties in Florida and New York, and it is unclear whether he is among the group of four Members currently under investigation.
Though McKeon and Gallegly acknowledged last week that they were among the Members whom Issa had referred to the Ethics Committee, both denied any knowledge of the program from which they received their mortgages. Documents referenced in Cummings’ letter, however, suggest that subpoenaed documents contained correspondence between McKeon and Countrywide employees that referenced the company’s VIP program.
“A follow-up letter sent to Chairman McKeon provided forms for him to sign and stated: ‘Thank you for allowing COUNTRYWIDE’s VIP TEAM to assist you with your financing needs on the above referenced property,’” Cummings wrote.
Other documents indicated McKeon was referred to the mortgage-discount program by Michael J. Ferrell, who was then the head lobbyist at the Mortgage Bankers Association of America and had orchestrated the group’s effort to block higher fees on mortgage lenders.
McKeon is known to have received a Countrywide mortgage for $315,000, and Mozilo instructed the individual handling his loan to “take off 1 point, no garbage fees, approve the loan and make it a no doc,” according to documents reviewed by Cummings.
A spokesman for McKeon was not immediately available for comment.
Issa has two interviews scheduled this week with the Countrywide employees who processed McKeon’s loan.