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Lee Rogers: McKeon should pay back Countrywide gains

Guest Commentary

Posted: July 9, 2012 1:30 a.m.
Updated: July 9, 2012 1:30 a.m.
 

On July 4, the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform released its much-anticipated report titled “How Countrywide Used its VIP Loan Program to Influence Washington Policymakers.”

Congressman Howard “Buck” McKeon, whom I am challenging in this year’s election, received a VIP loan from Countrywide, but has denied any involvement in the scandal. McKeon also told the Los Angeles Times that he paid the “garbage fees and did not get a point off the loan.”

The investigation results contradict McKeon’s assertions, stating that borrowers were clearly made aware that their loans were processed by the VIP unit, and the Countrywide documents show that one point was, in fact, waived on McKeon’s loan.

The report revealed that McKeon was referred to the program by Mortgage Bankers Association of America lobbyist Mike Farrell. At the time, Farrell was the chief lobbyist and legislative strategist for the MBA and was “leading the industry’s successful campaign to raise the maximum loan amount for FHA single-family insured mortgages,” — one of the policies that helped lead us to the housing market crash of 2008.

The report indicates that McKeon applied for a refinanced loan at the end of September 1998. On Oct. 5, he called Countrywide anxious to close on the loan. The report said “(McKeon) was difficult to deal with” and “he seems on the edgy side.”

On Oct. 6, Congress passed HR 4194, which increased the FHA loan maximums as an amendment to a Veterans Affairs authorization bill. McKeon voted “yes” on that measure.

On Oct. 7, McKeon’s loan was approved and he was sent the “opening package” of loan documents indicating the VIP team had processed the loan.

Congressman McKeon’s claims that he received no special treatment are, in fact, false.

He profited because he was a member of Congress and Countrywide wanted to buy influence. In addition to waiving the fees, 1 percent interest savings on a home mortgage of $315,000 would have saved McKeon tens of thousands of dollars over the life of the loan.

I’m calling on Congressman McKeon to finally come clean and be honest with his constituents about the special perks he received.

Additionally, I’m calling on McKeon to pay this money back, not to Countrywide, but to the U.S. Treasury, since it was the taxpayer who absorbed Countrywide’s losses through the 2008 bank bailout — known as the Troubled Asset Relief Fund, or “TARP” — which McKeon also voted for.

Ultimately, however, it is up to the American people to hold their elected officials accountable and demand major reforms to congressional ethics policies. That is why I have been campaigning on the issue of ethics reforms, such as cracking down on special perks and privileges for members of Congress, campaign nepotism, and other abuses of power.

I hope you will join me.

Dr. Lee Rogers is a candidate for Congress in California’s 25th district. He lives with his wife and two daughters in Simi Valley.

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