Christine Stuart photo
U.S. Sen. Chris Dodd (Christine Stuart photo)

The Senate Ethics Committee dismissed the complaint against U.S. Sen. Chris Dodd Friday determining that Dodd and his wife Jackie did not violate Senate ethics rules when they refinanced their mortgages through Countrywide’s VIP program.

In this four-page letter to Dodd the committee said it found “no substantial credible evidence” that he broke the Senate gift rules when he received the mortgages through a “Friends of Angelo” program named for then-Countrywide CEO Angelo Mozilo.

“The allegations are and have always been false,” Dodd said Friday afternoon in the same Hartford office he used to released his mortgage documents to the media in February.

Click here to read our report from February when Dodd released his mortgage documents.

The Senate Ethics Committee found that Countrywide offered Dodd the same loan rates available to a wide variety of borrowers with similar financial profiles.

However, the committee did admonish Dodd saying he “should have exercised more vigilance in your dealings with Countrywide in order to avoid the appearance that you were receiving preferential treatment based on your status as a senator.” 

Since the Countrywide mortgage deal became news last summer, Dodd’s poll numbers have plummeted.

“My reaction to those false allegations only acted to foster cynicism,” Dodd admitted Friday explaining that he didn’t address them as quickly as he should have. “You have be ready and willing to respond to attacks on your integrity in a way that allows the public to feel confident that they were right to trust you in the first place.”

He said he hopes the committee’s decision goes a long way toward restoring the trust and confidence he has built over the years with the people of Connecticut.

“It hurt deeply to have that trust be eroded as obviously evidenced by what we’ve seen in polling data,” Dodd said during a brief 10-minute press conference.

But Republican State Chairman Chris Healy said no one should be fooled by Friday’s announcement.

“Any reasonable examination of the documents and public statements by a Countrywide official who had no reason to lie under oath, shows Sen. Dodd and his wife were given the red carpet treatment for their two loans on properties in Washington, D.C. and Haddam,” Healy said in an emailed statement.

“Ultimately the voters will decide whether Sen. Dodd has been truthful about his relationship with Countrywide in his personal life and as U.S. Senator,” Healy concluded.

The announcement was also met with skepticism from Dodd’s opponents in his 2010 re-election campaign.

Merrick Alpert, the Democratic candidate who hopes to primary Dodd said in a statement, “The people of Connecticut expect their Senator to live up to a higher standard than that applied by the Senate Ethics Committee.”

“The people of Connecticut won’t be fooled by the spin.  They know that Senator Dodd violated the trust the people of Connecticut placed in him,” Alpert said.

Dodd’s Republican challengers also chimed in hoping to make sure the public remembers the allegations, not the outcome of the ethics probe.

“Now that the World’s Most Exclusive Club has – surprise, surprise – given a pass to one of its own, we still await the day when Sen. Dodd will live up to his pledge of full transparency and make his mortgage documents public so the people of Connecticut can judge for themselves whether or not the VIP, ‘Friend of Angelo’ treatment he received was appropriate for a sitting United States Senator who, as chairman of the Banking and Housing Committee, held a position of significant authority over those industries,” former U.S. Rep. Rob Simmons said an emailed statement.

State Sen. Sam Caligiuri, who is also challenging Dodd for his seat, said Dodd should release the mortgage documents online so the public can judge for themselves.

“The people of Connecticut have a right to be able to decide for themselves if Senator Dodd’s conduct with Countrywide is acceptable,” Caligiuri said. 

View some of the documents involved in the investigation here.