Senators Caught in Mortgage Fallout

When Senator Kent Conrad of North Dakota wanted a mortgage for his beach house, he turned to a Washington insider, James A. Johnson, former head of Fannie Mae, the government mortgage giant, who then put the senator in touch with Angelo Mozilo, chief executive of the mortgage lender Countrywide Financial.

The ensuing telephone call between Mr. Conrad and Mr. Mozilo led to two Countrywide mortgages, including one in which the company bent its rules to give Mr. Conrad a loan.

Those loans are now among a number of Countrywide mortgages at the center of an examination into whether a number of top politicians in Washington — members of Congress, the cabinet and celebrated advisers — received favorable deals from a company whose lax lending standards are at the center of the subprime mortgage crisis.

This week, Mr. Johnson, whom Mr. Conrad turned to for help, was forced to step down as head of Senator Barack Obama’s vice-presidential selection committee in part over Countrywide home mortgage loans that Mr. Johnson had received at favorable rates.

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