An ethics panel cleared Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., Friday of wrongdoing for his inclusion in a Countrywide Financial Corp. program that offered special mortgage terms for VIPs.

But the Senate Ethics Committee still admonished Dodd, the head of the Banking Committee, to be more careful about potential conflicts.

"Once you became aware that your loans were in fact being handled through a program with the name 'VIP,' that should have raised red flags for you and compelled you to find out exactly how you became a member of the VIP unit, whether you may have been offered treatment based on your official position, and very specifically if you were receiving preferential treatment not available to other borrowers with similar loan profiles," the panel wrote in a letter to the Connecticut Democrat dated Friday.

The committee said it "found no credible evidence that" Dodd "knowingly accepted a gift" that would have violated ethics rules.

An imbroglio erupted in June 2008 when reports surfaced of Dodd and others being placed in the "Friends of Angelo" program, named for former Countrywide chief Angelo Mozilo. The program was intended to give high-profile figures deals on mortgages not meant for other customers.

(Bank of America Corp. bought Countrywide earlier in 2008).

Dodd consistently maintained he did not receive special treatment, but the episode has contributed to political problems in his home state, where he is fighting a tough re-election battle.

"Now that the facts have been aired and the lessons learned, it's time to move on," he said in a press release Friday.

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