The House Ethics Committee has found no rules violations by lawmakers who used a VIP loan program from Countrywide Financial Corp.
The committee's leaders said its investigation largely led to the same conclusions as the Senate Ethics Committee, which determined in 2009 that there was "no substantial credible evidence" that two of its members had broken rules by accepting loans through the special program.
Although the House Ethics Committee likewise cleared members of that body, committee Chairwoman Jo Bonner (R-Ala.) and top Democrat Linda T. Sanchez of Lakewood said in a statement that there were serious concerns about some allegations against House staffers.
Closing the book a story that had caused some embarrassment for two local members of the Congress, the House Ethics Committee has concluded that no violations of law or standards of ethical conduct were violated by members who received so-called "Friends of Angelo" mortgages from Countrywide during the time Angelo Mozilo was chairman of the now-defunct lending institution.
Retiring Rep. Elton Gallegly of Simi Valley and Rep. Howard "Buck" McKeon of Santa Clarita, who now represents Simi Valley, were among the recipients of those loans. Both asserted that they not only did not receive special treatment, but were unaware that their loans were part of any special program initiated by Countrywide.
The Ethics Committee's report substantiates those assertions.
"The House Ethics Committee said Thursday it found no violations among House members whose mortgage loans went through the VIP section of Countrywide Financial Corp., the company whose subprime loans helped cause the foreclosure crisis.
The committee said nearly all the allegations of favored treatment involved loans that were granted so long ago that they fell outside the panel's jurisdiction. The committee added that participation in the VIP program did not necessarily mean borrowers received the best loan deal available — and most lawmakers were not even aware they were placed in a VIP unit.
Rep. Elton Gallegly, R-Simi Valley, and Howard "Buck" McKeon, R-Santa Clarita, were among the House members whose names were on the original list of VIP loans.
The actions of unnamed House staff members were harshly criticized. Emails indicated they reached out to Countrywide lobbyists for help with their personal loans, but those actions also were too old to remain in the committee's jurisdiction. The panel said that if the incidents had been more recent, the staff members could have faced discipline."
Howard Rosenblatt voted for U.S. Sen. Christopher Dodd five years ago. He won't do that again.
"It's time for Chris to resign," said the 62-year-old owner of Rosenblatt's department store in Naugatuck, Conn., a working-class borough of more than 30,000.