How Crony Capitalism Works

Tad DeHaven summed up the congressional report on Countrywide Financial’s VIP loan for members of Congress and other Beltway players.

 

 

 

 

 

But I was struck by this point in a Bloomberg report, about Countrywide CEO Angelo Mozilo’s close relationship with Fannie Mae chief executive Jim Johnson, former top aide to Vice President Walter Mondale and chairman of both the Brookings Institution and the Kennedy Center. Instructing his staff to give a discount mortgage loan to Johnson, Mozilo wrote in an email:

Jim Johnson continues to be a source of many loans for our company and this is just a small token of appreciation for the business that he sends to us.

Note that Jim Johnson didn’t favor Countrywide with his personal business. He didn’t invest in Countrywide. He didn’t sell houses and send the buyers to Countrywide. No, he sent loans backed by taxpayers’ money to Countrywide, and was rewarded with personal benefits. That’s crony capitalism.

This was kind of a stunning detail:

Jim Johnson, chief executive officer of Fannie Mae from 1991 to 1998, earned $100 million during his time at the company. Nonetheless, Countrywide employees expressed concern about giving him a loan because he didn’t pay his bills regularly and had a low credit score, according to e-mails published in Issa’s report.

Given his credit report, Countrywide underwriters didn’t want to sign off on a loan to Johnson. But Mozilo, who knew the business Countrywide was really in, told them not only to approve the loan but to give Johnson a discounted rate.

And that, kiddies, is how being involved with a highly respected politician can get you a job in Washington that pays $100 million, backed by the full faith and credit of the American taxpayers, as well as extra perks from other companies tied into the crony corporatist state.

More on Johnson, Fannie, and Mozilo here.