The scandal of Countrywide's sweetheart loans has already forced the resignation of a top Barack Obama campaign adviser, and is proving embarrassing to two powerful US Senators. But now some are wondering where the information about the tainted loans is coming from. Who is leaking the story?
The tale of the "Friends of Angelo" loan program, named for Countrywide founder Angelo Mozilo, has come out in bits and pieces. No sources have publicly been named, and the material is not apparently available in any public filings with the SEC or FEC. Someone seems to have a list of the "Friends of Angelo" and has been leaking the names out to journalists. Those most damaged by the story have been close to Obama.
We initially learned about the "Friends of Angelo" loan program from the Wall Street Journal the weekend before last. That first story tagged two former Fannie Mae chief executives as receiving favorable loans under the program, one of whom--Democratic power broker James Johnson--was part of a three-man team Obama formed to vet possible running mates. Johnson was forced to step down as an adviser to the campaign following the revelations.
Five days later Portfolio reported that two US senators, among others, were recipients of the FoA largesse. One of them, moderate Democrat from North Dakota Kent Conrad, endorsed Barack Obama in December, before a single primary or caucus had been held. At the time, Hillary Clinton was still viewed as the nominee and most senators were remaining. Only one other had endorsed Obama, while nine senators had endorsed Clinton.
The other senator named in the Portfolio story was Connecticut's Christopher Dodd. Although Dodd's endorsement of Obama came far later than Conrad's, it was seen as a serious blow to the Clinton campaign a week before the Ohio primary. Dodd, a recognized leader on foreign and military affairs, gave Obama creditability in an area where the Clinton campaign believed Obama was vulnerable.
That's certainly suggestive that someone is out to get prominent Obama supporters with this story. It seems unlikely to be a Republican, since these are essentially "inside the Beltway" stories that are unlikely to capture much public attention. This is not a general election story. It reeks more of the smoky room, intra-party knife-fighting.