The Hartford Courant’s Ed Mahony and Jon Lender – the duo widely credited for blowing open the Rowland scandals – have turned their focus to Senator Chris Dodd and his wife, Jackie Clegg Dodd, this week. Their Sunday story raised questions about the propriety of Mrs. Dodd’s participation on at least five corporate boards – earning her more than $500,000 in compensation last year.
The crux of the matter seems to be this: is this a case of big corporations influencing the decisions of the Chairman of the Banking Committee or is Mrs. Dodd a well-qualified member of these boards who would likely be there anyway?
The question provoked strong responses from the chiefs of each Connecticut political party yesterday. Connecticut Republican Party Chairman Chris Healy released a statement that was highly critical of Mrs. Dodd, essentially reprising his blog post on the issue from Sunday. The sharpest quote from Healy:
“You don’t become a board member with this thin a resume unless you know someone,” said Healy.
A response, albeit a bit plaintive, came quickly from Connecticut Democratic Chair Nancy DiNardo via e-mail:
Despite what Mr. Healy and the Republicans will try to spin, Jackie should not have to give up her career just because she married a public official. We long ago got over that viewpoint in our society, at least for most of us.
The e-mail goes on to encourage Connecticut Democrats to make a contribution to the Dodd campaign volunteer for Sen. Dodd add a comment to the Courant article online supporting Mrs. Dodd.
That Chairwoman DiNardo would seek to raise the shrill cry of sexism so quickly is telling. While there surely is more to reveal, the facts as presented seem straightforward. Mrs. Dodd, as an officer at the Import/Export Bank and a legislative aide, had a background which arguably could be enough experience for some of these boards.
But the more serious are the questions related to the financial audit committees, which are required to be populated by people with a strong accounting background. Mrs. Dodd does not have such experience. It is on these audit committees, in particular, where Mrs. Dodd’s presence seems like an obvious insurance policy for the big corporations: what federal regulator wants to raise serious questions about corporate books audited by the Senate Banking Committee Chairman’s wife?
The traditional and obvious response would simply to have Mrs. Dodd resign from the boards – particularly the financial audit committees. But Mrs. Dodd and her defenders seem pretty hot about the sexism/fairness argument – perhaps compelling them to hold the line. At the same time, these are lucrative positions that help pay for the Dodd’s expensive lifestyle. Can they afford to go without money?
The next moves in this situation will be made by Mr. and Mrs. Dodd, and it will be fascinating to see what they do.