Two powerful Senate Democrats said Tuesday that they knew they got low mortgage-rate deals in a lender's VIP program but thought the special treatment was a "courtesy" or the same as "frequent flier" discounts, The Washington Times reported Wednesday.
Both vehemently denied any wrongdoing or ethical lapse in the mortgage deals, which came to light a year ago and triggered investigations by the Senate Select Committee on Ethics and the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.
"I thought this was like a frequent-flier program," Sen. Kent Conrad, chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, said of the special benefits. "I thought nothing of it."
Sen. Christopher J. Dodd, chairman of the Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee, said an account executive at Countrywide Financial Corp. told him that the VIP status was "nothing more than ... courtesy stuff."
A Countrywide official who handled the loans had said that both senators knew they got preferential treatment in the form of waived fees and points that likely saved them tens of thousands of dollars.