The House Ethics Committee last week declined comment on whether they will investigate two questionable home mortgagesthat Rep. Edolphus Towns received from Countrywide Financial Corp.
The possible investigation comes after the Wall Street Journal reported that Towns took out a Countrywide loan in 1997 to purchase a home in Lutz, Fla., and then refinanced the property in September 2003 with a mortgage of more than $180,000 from the lender.
Also in September 2003, the Townses took out a Countrywide loan of roughly $190,000 on their Brooklyn home, the records show. This loan was paid off in 2005 when the couple obtained a $411,000 loan through another company.
The Journal also reported that some information in the Towns’ mortgage documents raise the possibility they were made through Countrywide’s VIP program.
The VIP program was operated under former Chief Executive Angelo Mozilo and known within the company as “Friends of Angelo.”
The “Friends of Angelo” program provided loans to public figures and other favored borrowers often at lower interest rates or with lower origination fees than were available to the general public.
The Journal reported the initial interest rates on two five-year, adjustable-rate Countrywide loans Towns and his wife took in September 2003 were 4.5 percent and 4.625 percent.
Around the time of those loans, the average rates nationally on such loans ranged from about 4.7 percent to about 5.3 percent, according to HSH Associates, a Pompton Plains, N.J., publisher of mortgage-rate data, according to the Journal.
Other federal elected officials and operatives -- both Democrats and Republicans - reportedly received VIP mortgages, including Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Connecticut) and Sen. Kent Conrad (D-North Dakota).
Both Senators said they didn’t know at the time they were getting special deals.
Last week the Senate Ethics Committee cleared both of breaking ethics rules, but scolded them for not being more careful.
But Blake Chisam, staff director and chief counsel for the House Ethic Committee, said Towns and others in the House may not be off the hook.
“We don’t tip our hand on whether we are or are not doing an investigation,” said Chisam.
The House Ethics Committee is the only fully bipartisan standing committee with a membership of five Democrats and Five Republicans.
A Towns spokesperson said the Brooklyn lawmaker is not conducting interviews at this time.
“Congressman Towns did not receive, nor did he seek, any special mortgage benefits,” said the spokesperson. “We have no reason to believe there is anything to this matter.”
Towns has represented the 10th Congressional District for the past 26 years. The district encompasses East New York, Canarsie, Brownsville, Bedford-Stuyvesant, Cypress Hills, Clinton Hill, Mill Basin, Midwood, Downtown Brooklyn, Boreum Hill, and parts of Fort Greene and Williamsburg.