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Letter: Bennett staffers got VIP loans

Posted - Jul. 15, 2010 at 6:04 p.m.



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SALT LAKE CITY -- Past members of Sen. Bob Bennett's staff are part of an inquiry into "sweetheart loan deals," handed out years ago.

The investigation also includes up to 30 so-called VIP mortgage loans, not available to the general public, but granted to Senate staffers -- 12 of whom worked for Bennett.

California Republican Sen. Darrell Issa is initiating the probe, which involves loans from Countrywide Financial Corporation. Those loans were granted about six or seven years ago.

Issa claims Countrywide was looking for officials "positioned to advance Countrywide's business interests." Bank of America bought Countrywide in 2008.

Bennett released a statement about the issue Thursday, indicating he has never had a Countrywide mortgage and doesn't inquire about the personal financial dealings of his staff.

"Should the Senate Ethics Committee decide the matter warrants an inquiry, I will certainly assist them in any way and require that my staffers do the same," Bennett said. [CLICK HERE to read Bennett's entire statement]

The senator doesn't have to worry about re-election, but the larger issue speaks to a greater cynicism over Washington politics right now, according to University of Utah political science Professor Matthew Burbank.

The Senate ethics committee scolded Senators Chris Dodd and Kent Conrad a year ago for not being more careful to avoid the appearance of favoritism from Countrywide. They were both cleared of wrongdoing, but a wider investigation into the loans has barely started.

The probe includes up to 30 so-called VIP mortgage loans, not available to the general public, but granted to Senate staffers. That includes 12 people who worked for Bennett.

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Story compiled with contributions from Richard Piatt and Andrew Adams.

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