NEWSMAKER-Wounded Sen. Dodd guided Wall St reform to victory

* Dodd faces retirement as political star fades

* Record of legislative achievement doesn’t move voters

* Dodd says he is undecided on future, will not lobby

By Kevin Drawbaugh

WASHINGTON, July 16 (BestGrowthStock) – For Senator Christopher
Dodd, approval of the Wall Street reform bill that he co-wrote
closes out two turbulent years of remarkable legislative
success — an accomplishment often eclipsed by a career-ending
political crisis.

The senior Connecticut Democrat will retire in several
months after 30 years in national politics. Facing weak poll
numbers and a wave of voter disenchantment with incumbents,
Dodd decided months ago not to seek reelection.

Despite steering to passage both healthcare reform and the
biggest bank regulation overhaul in decades, Dodd has faced
some of the lowest approval ratings of his career in his home
state.

Hurt by a failed run for the presidency and a string of
personal controversies, he told Reuters that, at one point last
year, he felt like he had fallen off a runaway horse with one
foot stuck in the stirrup.

“You can’t get up and you can’t get off; you just hope the
horse has enough sense to stop. You’re getting dragged through
the desert. I couldn’t believe it,” he said in an interview.

“Every time I turned around, it was just, What fate has
befallen me here? I’m getting whacked around the head. … It’s
all just circumstance.”

Dodd, 66, said he has not decided what he will do next.

Asked if there might be a role for him in the Obama
administration, which he has assisted immensely, Dodd suggested
it wouldn’t be his top choice.

“I wouldn’t say no absolutely to the president, obviously.
But I think it’s time to move on. … I’m not going to lobby.
… There are plenty of things to do without having to do
that.”

Colleagues said Dodd will be missed, in part because the
jovial centrist is a consensus builder — a rare quality in
today’s deeply fractured Senate.

“There is an unbelievable string of accomplishment and
legislation,” said Representative Rosa DeLauro, a fellow
Democrat who was Dodd’s first campaign manager and his former
chief of staff. “No one has done more to affect social
legislation than Chris Dodd, except maybe for his good friend,
Ted Kennedy.”

WHITE HOUSE RUN A TURNING POINT

The Senate’s approval of the Dodd-Frank bill, also named
for Dodd’s co-author, Democratic Representative Barney Frank,
will be a book-end to Dodd’s long legislative career. The bill
will curb risky trading by banks and create a new government
watchdog to protect consumers, with the aim of preventing a
recurrence of the 2007-2009 financial crisis.

But ass far-reaching as the bill is, like the healthcare
reform legislation it had little impact on voters’ recent
negative view of Dodd, said Doug Schwartz, director of
Quinnipiac University’s political polling unit in Connecticut.

“I just don’t think people are aware of … Dodd’s role in
shaping legislation. They know about President Obama and what
he’s trying to do, but I don’t think they’re really aware of
who the Senate and House players are,” Schwartz said.

Dodd’s approval ratings started sliding, for the first time
in his career, about two years ago after a failed run for the
presidency, according to the Quinnipiac polls.

His approval fell further after it emerged that he took out
two mortgage loans in 2003 with troubled lender Countrywide
Financial Corp. under a VIP program that critics said
represented a sweetheart deal. Dodd said he did nothing
improper. A Senate ethics panel cleared him of any wrongdoing.

He also took criticism over his role in legislation that
allowed big bonuses to go to executives of insurer AIG, which
received billions in a government bailout. Dodd said he never
intended for the bonuses to happen, but the episode damaged his
political standing.

As of mid-June, only 36 percent of Connecticut voters
approved of the job he was doing, polls showed.

“His low ratings are entirely a function” of the
Countrywide and AIG controversies, said Howard Reiter,
political science professor at the University of Connecticut.

“He also was slow to react to the charges, giving every
impression of having something to hide. It was a remarkably
tone-deaf performance for a guy who was known for one of the
most deft antennae in politics,” Reiter said.

MULTI-TASKING DODD

But although voters have failed to embrace Dodd recently,
his strong role in legislation is likely to be recognized over
time.

“Dodd’s three-decade career as a senator is marked by major
accomplishments. As the economy rebounds and voters become less
testy, I’m sure the retrospective on his career will improve,”
said Ken Dautrich, a University of Connecticut public policy
professor.

In addition to his lead role on financial reform, Dodd
steered healthcare reform to passage earlier this year, after
taking over the project after the death of Senator Edward
Kennedy.

Dodd also helped pass a historic nuclear agreement with
India, a bill reforming the credit card industry, a mental
health bill, and the Bush administration’s bank bailout.

His accomplishments came as his personal life was marked by
struggles. Dodd underwent surgery last year for prostate
cancer. In addition, he and his wife are raising two young
children.

“It’s been a remarkable 20 months,” he told Reuters during
an interview in his office amid pictures of sailboats and
Connecticut street scenes.

“I survived prostate cancer. … I lost my sister in July 6
of last year. Teddy I lost in August. … So there’s been just
a lot happening.”

He said he wants to be known for his impact on social
policy and cited his authorship of legislation giving Americans
the right to take time off from work for the birth of a child,
as well as for his financial regulation accomplishments.

“I’d like to think of the legacy as both five or six
landmark pieces of legislation … and then also demonstrating
that you can make the Senate work. … It’s labor intensive and
it’s personal, but you can make it work,” he said.
(Editing by Leslie Adler)

NEWSMAKER-Wounded Sen. Dodd guided Wall St reform to victory