Opinion: Countrywide’s political donations examined

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Not long ago, Chief Executive Angelo Mozilo and his Countrywide Finance Corp. were riding high and friends of many politicians. That was before serious problems in the nation’s home mortgage industry and the new investigation by securities regulators into the timing of Mozilo’s sale of $145 million in Countrywide stock in the months before those shares went into a nosedive.

Before all this unpleasantness, Mozilo and his company were good for almost $2 million in federal and California campaign donations dating back to 2000, according to research by Dan Morain, The Times’ resident expert in campaign finances.


Countrywide’s biggest spending has not been countrywide; it’s been concentrated in California, where contribution caps are much less strict: they spent $450,000 for a failed measure to create open primaries and $250,000 on efforts to limit shareholder lawsuits; and gave $150,000 to the California Republican Party and $83,000 to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

But Mozilo has also played nationally. In the presidential race, Mozilo and a handful of Countrywide executives gave $13,950 to Republican presidential front-runner Rudolph Giuliani, and just to be safe $6,600 to one of his main foes, Mitt Romney.

On the Democratic side, Mozilo himself gave $2,300 to New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson. Countrywide’s political action committee gave $10,000 to Sen. Christopher Dodd’s campaign. Now, why Dodd, you may ask? He’s from far away in that cute little place called Connecticut.

Ah, well, when he’s not running for president and thanks to the new Democratic majorities in Congress, Dodd is chairman of the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee, which has regulatory authority over home lenders such as, well, will you look at that, companies like Countrywide.

--Andrew Malcolm