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Oversight panel to subpoena Countrywide info

By Ben Pershing
UPDATE 10:02 P.M. ET: Towns and Issa have announced an agreement on subpoenaing Bank of America for records related to the Countrywide mortgage program. Their joint statement is available here, and a copy of the subpoena is here.

ORIGINAL POST: The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee majority and minority are negotiating the details of a subpoena for documents related to Countrywide Financial Corp.'s "VIP" mortgage program, a step forward in a probe that has been stalled by partisan squabbling.

Republicans and Democrats on the committee have been bickering since last week, when the GOP staff posted a video online that mocked the majority and Democrats retaliated by changing the locks on a hearing room door. The dispute originated with a disagreement over the direction of the committee's investigation of Countrywide (now owned by Bank of America), which operated a special mortgage program that provided services to Sens. Christopher Dodd (D-Conn.) and Kent Conrad (D-N.D.), among other political luminaries.

Rep. Darrell Issa (Calif.), the panel's top Republican, has pushed for a subpoena, while Democrats expressed concern that the GOP was on a fishing expedition for information embarrassing to more members of Congress.

On Friday, Oversight Chairman Edolphus Towns (D-N.Y.) issued a statement saying: "It is my goal to work through this matter in a bipartisan fashion and conduct a complete review of the role of mortgage companies in the current financial crisis. As part of this, we need to clarify unanswered questions about Countrywide Financial's VIP program, so I am issuing a subpoena to gather information about how that program worked and whether it provided special benefits to government officials. I am prepared to issue additional subpoenas if other companies fail to respond to our document requests."

Notably, Towns added that "the subpoena to Countrywide covers records that could show special treatment for Members of Congress," and that if such information is produced, the Oversight panel will forward it to the House ethics committee for consideration.

Towns himself has acknowledged getting a mortgage from Countrywide, but says he was not to his knowledge part of the company's VIP program.

As of this posting, the Countrywide subpoena had not yet been issued, and panel staff from the two parties were meeting to discuss the details of the document request.

As for the door lock that was changed by committee Democrats, Towns said this in his Friday statement: "Finally, I would like to address the widespread false reports that I locked Republicans out of their offices earlier this week. These reports are incorrect. Republicans have at no time been denied access to the hearing room or their offices."

Towns and his staff openly admitted earlier this week -- to Politico, The Hill and other publications in addition to The Washington Post -- that they had changed the lock on the door leading from the GOP's office space to the hearing room, and that they had done so to punish the GOP for their behavior.

Panel Republicans say the door was definitely locked earlier this week. At the time of this posting Friday afternoon, the door in question had been unlocked, but Republicans still did not have a working key.

By Ben Pershing  |  October 23, 2009; 4:11 PM ET
Categories:  Ethics and Rules , House  
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Transparency - a promise forever made, never to be delivered.

Posted by: lostinthemiddle | October 23, 2009 4:43 PM | Report abuse

Good, when they find out others got preferential treatment and lower rates, I want my rate to be lowered to the lowest rate anyone had, as I have been overcharged because I am not a VIP. The current owner Bank of American can refund all the overpayments IN CASH! with interest, at the same rate they charge thier customers for money taken out with a cash withdrawal by credit card, for as many monthes or years as they have serviced any loan made since the first VIP Loan. At least this way those that got screwed will get their money back and not a government fine to be spent by a bunch of overpaid people that have shown little common sense since they arrived in Washington.

Posted by: nocroman | October 23, 2009 6:47 PM | Report abuse

Good. Now let's see Dodd get re-elected.
Unless we want to overlook his dealings with Countywide because he's such a great asset to the Country. Please people, lets get rid of these self servers and get back to electing people with true character.

Posted by: Wdyafo | October 24, 2009 8:03 AM | Report abuse

ANYONE involved needs to answer, democrat or republican. My guess is the info will not be available before the next elections, though...

Pelosi & Reid, will not do what they promised the American people! So much energy to cover up the inevitable...

Posted by: sally62 | October 25, 2009 10:51 AM | Report abuse

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