Dodd Held Hostage
I really feel bad for Chris Dodd getting caught up in the populist fury over AIG, in a way that is truly unfair to him. He wrote an executive compensation amendment for the stimulus. He was hounded by Treasury officials and Administration leaders to water it down, and wanting to keep at least some of the provisions in the bill he did so. There was no indication that AIG executives stood to benefit when he made changes to the bill. In fact, language that is LAW TODAY would still allow the Treasury Department to claw back bonuses if they found compelling public interest (which, according to Dodd, is happening as we speak). Despite the media and conservative jabber he's been completely consistent on this issue, the facts of which have been well-known for over a month. The flip-flop from the conservative business press, which a month ago were calling Dodd's amendment too restrictive and are now calling it a giveaway, is astonishing.
Here he is at a press conference today. Sadly, I'm not sure it'll be enough. The right was already smearing Dodd for a sweetheart mortgage he apparently received through Countrywide, and this offered another opportunity to pile on. Instead of the greater lesson that executive compensation is a festering problem that we must deal with (good again on Ben Bernanke for addressing that today), commentators are pointing fingers and deciding on Dodd as the scapegoat. "He gets all that campaign money from AIG!" No shit, so the chairman of the Senate Banking Committee gets campaign contributions from financial services interests? They apparently swayed him so much that he only offered an amendment to take all their bonuses away!
The end of Dodd's statement is particularly good:
"Standing in a community of my state, this isn't about my job, it's about their jobs. It's about their future and their children. And I'm not in the business of getting re-elected to office, I'm in the business of doing my job that I got elected to do. And I'm going to do my job."
I think he understands the reality, and that this all may cost him re-election. Scapegoating is a very easy and familiar action, but it doesn't make it right. And anyway, plenty in government knew about these bonuses. Talk to them for a minute.