Apolitical obituary for Sen. Christopher J. Dodd (D-Conn.), who has announced that he won't seek a sixth term, would have to note that for a man who was so often right about political issues, it's remarkable that he could be so frequently wrong about his personal finances.
Dodd, 65, is one of several prominent Democratic politicians who have recently opted to retire, including Sen. Byron L. Dorgan of North Dakota and Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter Jr. Most of those bowing out are centrists in traditionally conservative states where voter anger over healthcare reform and the federal stimulus program have produced a backlash against Democrats. That partly applies to Dodd, who as chairman of the Senate Banking Committee and a leader in healthcare negotiations was a key player in both initiatives. Yet what really seems to have attracted voters' ire in liberal Connecticut is Dodd's poor judgment, and possible breaches of ethics, on financial matters.
The biggest controversy -- though the one that concerns us the least -- involves a provision that he inserted into the stimulus bill last year capping the compensation of executives at companies receiving taxpayer money. At the behest of Obama administration officials, Dodd modified his amendment to exclude bonuses from contracts that were signed before passage of the legislation. That allowed financial services company American International Group to dole out $165 million in bonuses to executives in a division that had played a central role in the banking system's collapse. Dodd became a focus for national outrage as a result, yet if he hadn't modified the amendment, the bill probably would have been unconstitutional.