Getty Images Sen. Christopher J. Dodd, chairman of the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee, has lost some political standing heading into re-election because of his ties to American International Group Inc.
The message in the Nov. 17, 2006, e-mail from Joseph Cassano, AIG Financial Products chief executive, was unmistakable: Mr. Dodd was "next in line" to be chairman of the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee, which oversees the insurance industry, and he would "have the opportunity to set the committee's agenda on issues critical to the financial services industry.
"Given his seniority in the Senate, he will also play a key role in the Democratic Majority's leadership," Mr. Cassano wrote in the message, obtained by The Washington Times.
Mr. Dodd's campaign quickly hit pay dirt, collecting more than $160,000 from employees and their spouses at the AIG Financial Products division (AIG-FP) in Wilton, Conn., in the days before he took over as the committee chairman in January 2007. Months later, the senator transferred the donations to jump-start his 2008 presidential bid, which later failed.
Now, two years later, Mr. Dodd has emerged as a central figure in the government's decision to let executives at the now-failing AIG collect more than $218 million in bonuses, according to the Connecticut attorney general - even as the company was receiving billions of dollars in assistance from the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP). He acknowledged that he slipped a provision into legislation in February that authorized the bonuses, but said the Treasury Department asked him to do it.
The decision has generated national outrage and put the Obama administration into the position of trying to collect the bonuses after they were distributed. It also endangers Mr. Dodd's re-election chances in 2010 as his popularity tumbles in his home state.
Despite all the claims that Washington has changed, the tale of Mr. Dodd's lucrative political ties to AIG is a fresh reminder that special interests continue to use donations and fundraising to sow good will with powerful lawmakers like Mr. Dodd.