Dodd’s Dealings Illustrate Holes in Financial Disclosure


Via InstaPundit comes this commentary from the Hartford Courant by Kevin Rennie, an attorney who writes a weekly column for the paper, on Sen. Chris Dodd’s real estate deals. The Senate Ethics Committee is already looking at his mortgage with Countrywide Financial (more details here); Rennie writes that other Dodd properties might be worth looking into:

It was reported here two weeks ago that Downe’s real estate development partner, William “Bucky” Kessinger of Kansas City, Mo., purchased a 1,700-square-foot home in Ireland with Dodd in 1994 for $160,000. Downe’s name appeared on the transfer document filed in the Irish Land Registry as the witness to Kessinger’s signature. Kessinger owned two-thirds of the property, Dodd one-third.

Dodd’s spokesman told The Courant in 2001 that the senator and Downe, who pleaded guilty to insider trading in 1993, had been friends for many years. No one mentioned that Dodd and Downe together purchased a condominium in Washington, D.C., in 1986. Dodd bought Downe’s share 3 1/2 years later.

When Dodd owned a condominium with Downe in the 1980s, while Downe was carrying on his illegal stock scheme, no details of their arrangement were in the deed or mortgage filings.Who paid which expenses associated with owning the condominium didn’t fall into the public’s view. Neither did who used the condominium.

It raises the prospect that a senator, working much of the time in Washington, could have had his living expenses subsidized when the senator owned that real estate with a rich New York socialite. Even members of the smart set can be in only one place at a time. Downe already had homes in some of the nation’s finest neighborhoods when he bought the D.C. condominium with Dodd, who used to be called, but no more, one of the poorest members of the Senate.

Dodd was never required to name Kessinger (on Senate disclosures) as the co-owner of their house on 10 acres of waterfront property on the west coast of Ireland for the eight years they owned it together. As with the condominium, the public doesn’t know who paid the expenses associated with it when Kessinger owned two-thirds of it.

Here’s an image of what Dodd disclosed about his cottage in his calendar year 2000 financial disclosure form (filed in 2001):

Note that Dodd doesn’t disclose the owners of the other 2/3s of his Irish “cottage” — nor is he required to. Shouldn’t we know who politicians are buying properties with? Given the number of members who’ve run into ethical questions regarding homes and vacation homes (Sen. Ted Stevens, Rep. Charlie Rangel and Rep. Alan Mollohan spring immediately to mind) shouldn’t we have more disclosure about member’s real property?

Bonus Update: As I was trying to upload the image from Dodd’s PDF to this file, I had a chat with Kevin Rennie, the intrepid investigator who has unearthed the information on Dodd. He told me he got interested in this from looking at the disclosure — “I wondered, who owns the other two-thirds?” he said. He also sends along this picture of the cottage (click for a larger image):

Dodd's Irish "cottage"

I told him he missed his calling as an investigative reporter.