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Dodd, In Connecticut, Criticizes Treasury Officials
After enduring days of withering criticism for his role in the AIG bonus debacle, U.S. Sen. Christopher J. Dodd returned home to Connecticut on Friday in a feisty mood.
Dodd expressed frustration that Treasury Department officials "didn't have the courage" to step forward sooner to clarify their role.
He also struck a populist chord, saying he, too, is angry about the $165 million in bonuses handed to some employees at American International Group, especially given the economic pain so many Americans are feeling now.
"People are incensed about it," he said Friday during a brief stop in Enfield. "I don't blame them. ... No one's angrier than I am."
For many voters, Dodd, a Democrat who is chairman of the Senate banking committee, has become a symbol of government bungling of the bonus issue and a target of mounting anger over the economic crisis.
A furor erupted this week when Dodd, after first denying a role, acknowledged that he agreed to an amendment to the stimulus bill that had the effect of authorizing the much-criticized bonuses. But he said he agreed to the change only after being persuaded by the Treasury Department that they were necessary to speed a national recovery and prevent lawsuits. And he said he was not informed that the amendment would affect AIG specifically. AIG has received $170 billion in government bailout money.
After some finger-pointing between Dodd and Treasury officials, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner confirmed Dodd's account Thursday afternoon. In an interview with CNN, Geithner said the original legislation could have generated a flood of lawsuits because of its restrictions on executive compensation at financial institutions. Treasury officials could not be reached for comment Friday.
Dodd said he found it ironic that he was the one who sought compensation limits in the first place.
"Now everyone's getting religion on this," he said.
Republicans sense Dodd's vulnerability. On Friday, Republican Rob Simmons, who announced earlier this week that he will run against Dodd, said his campaign intends to raise $5 million.
Meanwhile, Dodd got back to doing what politicians love to do: bringing the bacon back to constituents. Dodd and U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, visited Enfield to announce federal funding for a study to upgrade emergency communications equipment.
"I'm delighted to see so much attention being paid to Enfield this morning," joked Dodd, who stood before a phalanx of television reporters and cameramen.
•Capitol Bureau Chief Christopher Keating contributed to this story.