GOSH, what a surprise: A committee of their fellow senators has decided that Chris Dodd and Kent Conrad did nothing unethical when they took out loans from Countrywide Financial on the kind of favorable terms not available to mere mortals without their financial or political standing -- or a personal connection to the head of Countrywide.

The very Select Committee on Ethics did recognize that the whole deal looked bad, and gave its colleagues a gentle pat on the wrist for creating "the appearance that you were receiving preferential treatment based on your status as a senator." But in the end, one hand washed the other, if not very well.

The senators on the committee have a point: This VIP program -- called Friends of Angelo after Angelo Mozilo, the head of Countrywide at the time -- seems to have been open to a wide, bipartisan range of politicians with pull as well as anybody Mozilo took a liking to.

To name a select few:
A former housing secretary (Alphonso Jackson),
a former secretary of health and human services and later university president (Donna Shalala),
a former assistant secretary of state and still-diplomat (Richard Holbrooke),
an adviser to Barack Obama's presidential campaign (James Johnson)
and so prominently on.

How else could these preferential loans appear but improper?

Just because something is legal doesn't make it right. When a senator is told he's getting a favor, like a point off his interest rate, that ought to be enough to raise a warning flag -- and keep him from accepting the deal.