Cherny: Discounted Mortgages, Free Football Tickets for Lawmakers Unacceptable
PHOENIX – Former Arizona fraud and public corruption prosecutor Andrei Cherny said today that the influence-peddling operation employed by a major mortgage lender that offered discount mortgage rates in an effort to gain special treatment shows that current ethics rules aren't enough to keep Congress honest.
The now-defunct Countrywide Financial Corp used a VIP mortgage program to "influence lawmakers with the aim of killing legislation that could hurt the company's profits," according to a House of Representatives' Oversight and Government Reform Committee report. [Source: "Countrywide used VIP program to sway Congress-report," Reuters, July 5, 2012]
Between 1991 and 2008, Countrywide gave hundreds of discounted loans to high-ranking Administration officials, members of Congress and congressional staffers. "The VIP loan program was a tool used by Countrywide to build goodwill with lawmakers and other individuals positioned to benefit the company," the report said.
"Americans don't believe Congress is working for them, and they're right," said Cherny. "Gifts to lawmakers are wrong whether they are discounted loans or football tickets. We’ve seen that time and time again both in Congress and the state legislature. Serving the public should be reward enough – and if it’s not, it’s time for those politicians to move on."
Last week, Cherny offered one of the toughest and most comprehensive ethics plans of any candidate for federal office. If Cherny's plan had been in place, members of Congress who took special mortgage rates would have been forced to disclose their meetings with Countrywide lobbyists.
Cherny has pledged that, if elected to Congress, he will post every meeting he has with a lobbyist on his congressional Web site. He has challenged his opponents to pledge to do the same -- but to date, all have declined to do so.