Sunday, September 9, 2012

The Murphy Pass and the Zen Gap

One could only imagine what might have happened at the Hartford Courant’s editorial board offices if one of their investigative journalists had discovered that former Governor John Rowland, now a radio talk show host, had failed to pay his mortgage “several times,” having been sued by a bank anxious to recover mortgage payments from a dead-beat politician.

Brains would have exploded.

But the politician who had “several times” declined to pay his mortgage is U.S. Representative Chris Murphy. And so, Mr. Murphy has received a gentle pat on the wrist from Courant editorial writers; this following a number of probative stories – though not “several” – written by Courant investigative reporter Jon Lender outlining the senile memory lapses of the 39 year old 5thDistrict congressman.
“There is no evidence,” according to a Courant editorial,“that Mr. Murphy received preferential treatment” from the bank that held his mortgage.

Editorial writers at the Courant may recall an earlier instance during which it had been asserted that then U.S. Senator Chris Dodd had received favored treatment on loans he had received from Countrywide, a politically well-connected financial operation whose CEO, Angelo Mozilo, had been parceling out preferential loans to Beltway power players who might pass laws affecting his business. Mr. Dodd was one among many shakers and movers in Washington given friendly treatment under Mr. Mozilo’s “Friends of Angelo”scheme.

“’As rates were coming down, we decided to do what millions of Americans did --we refinanced our home,’ said Dodd, chairman of the powerful Senate banking committee that watches over the mortgage industry. ‘As you shop around, you negotiate,’ he said. "I never spoke to anyone but loan officers.’”

Dodd was asked whether he had received a special deal:

“’It wasn't a special deal,’ he said, pointing out that the interest rates they secured were ‘well within the band of rates being offered across the country.’”

In a Sunday story, then Courant reporter Mark Pazniokas noted that the usually garrulous Dodd answered questions concerning his delay in releasing documents he said he would release four months ago with “the inscrutability of a Zen philosopher.”

So then, when would Mr. Dodd release the documents requested by the media?
"’I think it will become obvious at the time when it's the right time, and I'll explain that at the time when I do so,’ Dodd said Friday after a speech in Norwich.
“Confused? The senator refused to elaborate.
"’My answer is what it is, and in the right time, it will be there,’ Dodd said.”

The Zen fog dissipated when – please note the date – the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee chaired by Rep. Darrell Issa issued a final report on July 2012, according to story in Politico.

The committee report concluded that “the efforts by Countrywide and its former CEO, Angelo Mozilo, to woo political power brokers played a critical part in blocking legislation that would have reformed the mortgage industry, specifically the roles played by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in the U.S. housing bubble of the mid-2000s.”

Mr. Dodd is now safely tucked away in the soft and plushy bosom of the Motion Picture Association of America. Courant editorials – there were none on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee report– have in Dodd’s case lost their fangs. But note the Zen gap of “several”years, the all-important time lapse between suspicion and resolution.

Mr. Murphy, according to the only state-wide newspaper of record in Connecticut missed “several”mortgage payments; and on the strength of a representation from Mr. Murphy’s bank, Courant editorialists conclude “There is no evidence that Mr. Murphy received preferential treatment” from the bank that held his mortgage.

“Several” is a word used by reporters and others to indicate that there is no precise number available for release to reporters. And when Courant editorialists write There is no evidence that Mr. Murphy received preferential treatment…,” they mean roughly this: We have received a partial and incomplete representation from Mr. Murphy’s bank that he has not received preferential treatment. Stay tuned; the Zen fog may dissipate – or not – in “several” years.

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