Thursday, December 20, 2007

St. John Steps in It and Tells a Whopper

Out on the campaign trail, St. John McCain of the Straight Talk Express to Campaign Oblivion decides to revise history with the fervent hope that no one is paying attention:

WASHINGTON (AP) - Sen. John McCain, rising in the polls as a Republican presidential candidate, defended his integrity Thursday, declaring he had "never done any favors for anybody—lobbyist or special interest group."
McCain made the remark to reporters in Detroit when questioned about a report that The New York Times was investigating allegations of legislative favoritism by the Arizona Republican.

McCain acknowledged that his presidential campaign aides have had discussions with the newspaper regarding its inquiries.

"I have not been in talks with The New York Times. They've been communicating with our staff and with us," McCain said. "I've never done any favors for anybody—lobbyist or special interest group—that's a clear, 24-year record."

McCain and four other senators were accused two decades ago of trying to influence banking regulators on behalf of Charles Keating, a savings and loan financier later convicted of securities fraud. The Senate Ethics Committee said McCain had used "poor judgment" but also said his actions "were not improper" and warranted no penalty.

WAIT - STOP. Can't let this one go without going to an excellent series on McCain done by the Arizona Republic.

The Keating Five
Dan Nowicki, Bill Muller
The Arizona Republic
Mar. 1, 2007 10:41 AM



It all started in March 1987. Charles H Keating Jr., the flamboyant developer and anti-porn crusader, needed help. The government was poised to seize Lincoln Savings and Loan, a freewheeling subsidiary of Keating's American Continental Corp.

As federal auditors examined Lincoln, Keating was not content to wait and hope for the best. He had spread a lot of money around Washington, and it was time to call in his chits.


Now Keating had a job for DeConcini. He wanted him to organize a meeting with regulators to deliver a message: Get off Lincoln's back. Eventually, DeConcini would set up a meeting with five senators and the regulators. One of them was McCain.

McCain already knew Keating well. His ties to the home builder dated to 1981, when the two men met at a Navy League dinner where McCain spoke.

After the speech, Keating walked up to McCain and told him that he, too, was a Navy flier and that he greatly respected McCain's war record. He met McCain's wife and family. The two men became friends.

Charlie Keating always took care of his friends, especially those in politics. McCain was no exception.

In 1982, during McCain's first run for the House, Keating held a fund-raiser for him, collecting more than $11,000 from 40 employees of American Continental Corp. McCain would spend more than $550,000 to win the primary and the general election.

In 1983, as McCain contemplated his House re-election, Keating hosted a $1,000-a-plate dinner for him, even though McCain had no serious competition. When McCain pushed for the Senate in 1986, Keating was there with more than $50,000.

By 1987, McCain had received about $112,000 in political contributions from Keating and his associates.

McCain also had carried a little water for Keating in Washington. While in the House, McCain, along with a majority of representatives, co-sponsored a resolution to delay new regulations designed to curb risky investments by thrifts such as Lincoln.


Despite the reprieve, Keating's businesses continued to spiral downward, taking the five senators with him. Together, the five had accepted more than $300,000 in contributions from Keating, and their critics added a new term to the American lexicon: "The Keating Five."

The Keating Five became synonymous for the kind of political influence that money can buy. As the S&L failure deepened, the sheer magnitude of the losses hit the press. Billions of dollars had been squandered. The five senators were linked as the gang who shilled for an S&L bandit.

S&L "trading cards" came out. The Keating Five card showed Charles Keating holding up his hand, with a senator's head adorning each finger. McCain was on Keating's pinkie.

As the investigation dragged through 1988, McCain dodged the hardest blows. Most landed on DeConcini, who had arranged the meetings and had other close ties to Keating, including $50 million in loans from Keating to DeConcini's aides.

But McCain made a critical error.

He had adopted the blanket defense that Keating was a constituent and that he had every right to ask his senators for help. In attending the meetings, McCain said, he simply wanted to make sure that Keating was treated like any other constituent.

Keating was no ordinary constituent to McCain.

On Oct. 8, 1989, The Arizona Republic revealed that McCain's wife and her father had invested $359,100 in a Keating shopping center in April 1986, a year before McCain met with the regulators.

The paper also reported that the McCains, sometimes accompanied by their daughter and baby-sitter, had made at least nine trips at Keating's expense, sometimes aboard the American Continental jet. Three of the trips were made during vacations to Keating's opulent Bahamas retreat at Cat Cay.

McCain also did not pay Keating for some of the trips until years after they were taken, after he learned that Keating was in trouble over Lincoln. Total cost: $13,433.

* * *

Here we read a nice piece about McCain's lack of temperment and what he is like when cornered and asked about his various misdeeds:

* * *

When the story broke, McCain did nothing to help himself.

"You're a liar," McCain said when a Republic reporter asked him about the business relationship between his wife and Keating.

"That's the spouse's involvement, you idiot," McCain said later in the same conversation. "You do understand English, don't you?"

He also belittled reporters when they asked about his wife's ties to Keating.

"It's up to you to find that out, kids."


In his memoir Senator Dennis DeConcini: From the Center of the Aisle, he praises the decision to keep McCain on the hook.

"It became clear to me, and it was later confirmed by Ethics Committee members, that Bennett was attempting to dismiss the charges against McCain, and in order to appear nonpartisan, he included Glenn in this effort," DeConcini wrote with co-author Jack August. "Thanks to the three Democrats on the committee and perhaps with the help of Senator (Jesse) Helms (R-N.C.), however, the charges remained in place for all the senators under investigation. So all of us had to attend the 23-day public hearing, which was indeed a trial, before the six-member Senate Ethics Committee."

In the book, DeConcini reiterates his allegation that McCain leaked to the media "sensitive information" about certain closed proceedings in order to hurt DeConcini, Riegle and Cranston. It's a fairly serious charge. The Boston Globe revisited the Keating Five leaks in 2000. The story paraphrased a congressional investigator, Clark B. Hall, as personally concluding that "McCain was one of the principal leakers." The newspaper also reported that McCain, under oath, had denied involvement with the leaks.

McCain owns up to his mistake this way:

"I was judged eventually, after three years, of using, quote, poor judgment, and I agree with that assessment."

* * *

So if you can read all of that, and conclude that McCain is telling the truth when he says that he's "never done any favors for anybody—lobbyist or special interest group" then I think we can put this off as another McCain gaffe that will largely be blown over and ignored by the media. After all, how many of the media outlets are going to actually go into the details of the Keating Five scandal? I mean, that's so 1990, you know.

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