Furor Over AIG Bonuses May Affect Dodd -- Conn. Democratic Stalwart Tarred by Ties to His State's Financial Industry
This one is from The Washington Post:
For his nearly three decades in the Senate, Christopher J. Dodd has been a towering figure in tiny Connecticut, untouchable by political opponents in his four reelection races and a prodigious fundraiser thanks to his strong ties to the state's huge financial services sector.
But with banks, insurance companies and investment firms now held in widespread contempt, Dodd's political fortunes have also taken a hit. For the first time since he was elected to the Senate in 1980, he could face a serious challenge. And some of Dodd's longtime supporters are saying they will not vote for him again.
"I think his days are numbered," said Linda Walker, a retired nurse from Ridgefield. "He doesn't have the character I thought he had. That's where term limits come in."
Speaking of all long-serving politicians, Walker said, "They become so disconnected from where they're from."
"I'd rather he not run and save himself the embarrassment of losing," said Andrea Beebe, a teacher who also lives in Ridgefield. "You know, he was up to his eyeballs. He's had his hands in the mud pile for four or five years."
And these are Dodd's onetime supporters.
The most immediate issue for Dodd is the $165 million -- possibly more -- in bonus payments to employees of insurance giant American International Group. Many top AIG executives live in Connecticut, specifically in prosperous Fairfield County, one of the wealthiest in the nation. And the AIG Financial Products division, which is largely blamed for the country's financial meltdown because of its dealings in toxic mortgage-backed securities, is based here in the town of Wilton and was the target of a small but noisy protest rally Saturday.
Dodd, 64, is chairman of the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee, and Wednesday night, he said his staff removed a provision from the recently enacted economic stimulus bill that would have blocked AIG from paying those bonuses. Dodd said he was acting at the request of Treasury Department officials, who feared the provision would prompt legal challenges. But earlier in the week, Dodd had said he did not know how the provision got removed from the bill.
That shift in position has only underscored for many Dodd's close relationship with AIG.