One of the things that happens in my life is that after a while, the details get fuzzy. So, in light of the current Presidential campaign AND the current fiscal crisis, I wanted to find out just what did happen with John McCain and the Keating Five.
While one conservative commentator wrote recently that he was exonerated, this writer says that McCain was the “most reprehensible of the Keating Five”. Looking at this article from the Arizona Republic, part of a lengthy series on the senator, I’ve concluded that neither POV is accurate.
While it is true that by 1987, McCain had received about $112,000 in political contributions from Keating and his associates, McCain was hesitant about intervening on Keating’s behalf in the dealings with the Lincoln Savings and Loan. Indeed, McCain had previously refused his colleague, Democratic senator Dennis DeConcini’s request to meet with the Lincoln auditors themselves. In his book Worth the Fighting For, McCain wrote that he remained “a little troubled” at the prospect, “but since the chairman of the bank board didn’t seem to have a problem with the idea, maybe a discussion with the regulators wouldn’t be as problematic as I had earlier thought.”
The reprieve did not help Keating’s businesses, but tainted senators as “The Keating Five”, which 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…”
McCain, however, made a “critical error” when he “had adopted the blanket defense that Keating was a [mere] constituent and that he had every right to ask his senators for help.” But 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.
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.”
The paper ran the story.
In his 2002 book, McCain confesses to “ridiculously immature behavior” during that particular interview and adds that The Republic reporters’ “persistence in questioning me about the matter provoked me to rage.”
In the end, McCain received only a mild rebuke from the Ethics Committee for exercising “poor judgment” for intervening with the federal regulators on behalf of Keating. Still, he felt tarred by the affair.
“The appearance of it was wrong,” McCain said. “It’s a wrong appearance when a group of senators appear in a meeting with a group of regulators because it conveys the impression of undue and improper influence. And it was the wrong thing to do.”
So, it appears that while McCain was the most minor of players in the Keating Five, his legendary temper fueled his own difficulties.
Last week, I discovered a website, ABC Wednesday, where every week, one submits a post based on a particular letter of the alphabet. I’ve already picked out my posts for L, M, N, O and Q, and they are far less political than this first contribution.