Republicans call for Countrywide probe

WASHINGTON — Two Republicans are calling for an investigation into whether House lawmakers or staffers received preferential treatment from mortgage lender Countrywide Financial Corp.

The troubled lender, which was sold to Charlotte-based Bank of America Corp. earlier this year, has been the focus of allegations that it gave favorable loan terms to lawmakers.

Sens. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., and Kent Conrad, D-N.D., have acknowledged receiving mortgages through a VIP program for friends of former Countrywide chief executive Angelo Mozilo, but have said they were unaware of any favorable treatment.

Reps. Darrell Issa, R.-Calif., and Mark Souder, R-Ind., are calling on the House ethics committee to examine allegations, made in Conde Nast Portfolio magazine, that House staffers and members also received such treatment.

In a letter sent this week to the ethics committee, Issa and Souder called the report a “serious and broad allegation.”

The ethics panel, which does not typically comment on investigations, didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

Under its rules, the committee may open an investigation in response to a complaint filed by a lawmaker, but is not required to do so.

Issa and Souder had called on Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, to investigate, but Waxman said last month the ethics panel would be the “appropriate venue” for such an inquiry.

Bank of America spokeswoman Shirley Norton said the bank has discontinued Countrywide's VIP program and added that the bank “will cooperate fully with any inquiry.”