(Update) Dodd’s Dirty AIG Laundry on the Line

 

As if Sen. Chris Dodd hasn’t had enough public laundering lately over the Dodd Amendment which allowed the AIG Executive bonuses, the Washington Times has published a new exclusive this morning on the the rest of the dirties piled in Dodd and AIG’s laundry hamper.

The saga began, it would appear, with an email message in November, 2006, to AIG employees.

As Democrats prepared to take control of Congress after the 2006 elections, a top boss at the insurance giant American International Group Inc. told colleagues that Sen. Christopher J. Dodd was seeking re-election donations and he implored company executives and their spouses to give.

The message in the Nov. 17, 2006, e-mail from Joseph Cassano, AIG Financial Products chief executive, was unmistakable: Mr. Dodd was “next in line” to be chairman of the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee, which oversees the insurance industry, and he would “have the opportunity to set the committee’s agenda on issues critical to the financial services industry.

“Given his seniority in the Senate, he will also play a key role in the Democratic Majority’s leadership,” Mr. Cassano wrote in the message, obtained by The Washington Times.

Mr. Dodd’s campaign quickly hit pay dirt, collecting more than $160,000 from employees and their spouses at the AIG Financial Products division (AIG-FP) in Wilton, Conn., in the days before he took over as the committee chairman in January 2007. Months later, the senator transferred the donations to jump-start his 2008 presidential bid, which later failed.

The email went on to give specific instructions for donations to Mr. Dodd:

Mr. Cassano’s November 2006 e-mail instructed his colleagues on how to make donations to the senator from Connecticut.

“As he considers running for president in 2008, Senator Dodd has asked us for our support with his reelection campaign and we have offered to be supportive,” Mr. Cassano wrote.

The employees were told, “If you agree,” to write checks for $2,100 from themselves and their spouses and to send them to Mr. Dodd’s campaign within four days. They also were to ask the senior members of their management teams to do the same and send copies of their checks to the company.

The Dodd campaign collected $162,100 from AIG-FP employees and their spouses within six weeks of the e-mail, according to data from the Center for Responsive Politics and the Federal Election Commission.

Each of the seven AIG-FP executives to whom the Cassano e-mail was sent made two $2,100 contributions to the Dodd campaign – one for the primary and another for the general election campaign. The records also show that five of their wives also contributed $4,200 each to the Dodd campaign. The executive vice presidents are Alan Frost, David Ackert, Douglas L. Poling, Jake DeSantis, Jon Liebergall, Robert Leary and William Kolbert.

Mr. Cassano, who resigned in February after AIG-FP posted losses of $11 billion, followed his own advice. He and his wife gave Mr. Dodd’s campaign $4,200 each.

You may recognize Jake DeSantis’s name in this list. He is the AIG Executive who “quit” (but not really) with a public letter of resignation published in the New York Times over the bonus he received.

The firestorm of this investigation into Sen. Dodd’s relationship with AIG heated up after Sen. Dodd admitted to inserting an amendment into legislation allowing AIG to pay out millions in bonuses to their executives.

Watchdog groups say Mr. Dodd’s close association with AIG – over his career, the company’s employees have been one of his largest donor bases – raises questions about his and his committee’s ability to provide objective oversight. It was the $218 million in bonuses paid by AIG that became the focus of public outrage, igniting a torrent of criticism and congressional hearings in the wake of federal loan packages.

Earlier this month, Mr. Dodd defended the amendment to an economic stimulus bill that exempted bonuses to which companies receiving federal bailout funds previously agreed. He initially denied having any role in crafting the language, but he later said Treasury Department officials pressured him to make the change to protect the government from lawsuits.

Although the AIG-FP headquarters is located in Mr. Dodd’s home state and a good number of the bonuses authorized for top company executives went to that office, Mr. Dodd has said he had no idea the amendment would impact the company.

“Let me be clear: I was completely unaware of these AIG bonuses until I learned of them last week,” he told CNN last week. “I agreed reluctantly. I was changing the amendment because others were insistent.”

The question now, I suppose is, how much “insistence” came from the White House, and how much of it was Dodd’s own act of  dancing with “the one that brung him to the dance”?  We must question this, since AIG has been Dodd’s largest contributor to his campaigns since 2006.  Under President Obama’s new transparency rules, Dodd would undoubtedly be disqualified for service in the Obama Administration.

AIG’s employees have been big financial backers of Mr. Dodd. Over his career, Mr. Dodd has collected $238,418 from AIG employees and their spouses, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Mr. Cassano has donated $7,118 to Mr. Dodd’s campaigns.

Read the complete story from the Washington Post here.

UPDATE

Seems the fallout for Sen. Dodd is beginning to show in the polls:

Connecticut Sen. Chris Dodd is trailing several potential Republican challengers in the 2010 Senate race, according to a new state poll which shows the veteran Democratic lawmaker suffering from fallout over the AIG bonuses. 

The Quinnipiac University poll released Thursday shows Dodd with record low approval ratings. Just 33 percent of Connecticut voters approve of the job Dodd is doing in the Senate. 

The numbers foretell a challenging race for the five-term senator in 2010. In one matchup, the survey shows Dodd trailing former U.S. Rep. Rob Simmons, an announced rival, 50 to 34 percent. 

In two other matchups, Dodd trails state Sen. Sam Caligiuri, 41 to 37 percent, and former ambassador Tom Foley, 43 to 35 percent. 

The Quinnipiac survey shows 27 percent of state voters believe Dodd is most to blame for the bonuses, while 28 percent pin the blame on former President George W. Bush. 

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner was the top scapegoat for 20 percent, while 7 percent blamed President Obama. 

The poll surveyed 1,181 registered Connecticut voters and had a margin of error of 2.9 percentage points.  The poll was conducted between March 26-31.