McCain concedes error of appearance in Keating affair

January 05, 1991|By Dan Fesperman | Dan Fesperman,Washington Bureau of The Sun

WASHINGTON -- Sen. John McCain, nearing the end of his ordeal as a member of the so-called "Keating Five," told the Senate ethics committee yesterday that he'd learned an important lesson from the experience. "You not only have to be careful about how and what you do," the Arizona Republican said, "but you have to be careful about what you appear to do."

Because of that, Mr. McCain said, he and four other senators accused of improper conduct in the case may have committed an error of appearance. That occurred, he said, when they met with federal banking regulators on behalf of one of their political benefactors, savings and loan executive Charles H. Keating Jr.

And even though he thinks none of the senators exerted undue pressure on the regulators -- as the regulators have asserted -- their mere numbers might have given that impression, Mr. McCain said.

Mr. McCain made his statements yesterday as the committee hearings on the case entered their final stage, during which all five senators will respond to the panel's questions. Both he and Ohio Democrat John Glenn apparently have little to worry about, because committee special counsel Robert Bennett has already recommended that no action be taken against them.

But Mr. Glenn, who also testified yesterday, disagreed with Mr. McCain's assessment that the senators appeared to have acted improperly by gathering to meet twice with federal banking regulators in April 1987. Though some of the regulators have testified that they felt improperly intimidated by the show of numbers, Mr. Glenn said yesterday, "I never base my attendance at meetings on the number of senators that are going to be there."

If he did, he said, he might have to tell a constituent, " 'I can't represent you, I'm sorry, because there were four other senators there when I arrived at the meeting.' I think I would be laughed at."

Neither Mr. Glenn nor Mr. McCain added new information to the large pile of evidence in the case.

Questioning is likely to intensify next week when the other three senators -- Donald W. Riegle Jr., D-Mich., Dennis DeConcini, D-Ariz., and Alan Cranston, D-Calif. -- take the stand. Mr. Cranston, who is being treated in California for prostate cancer, is expected to testify on a video screen, by satellite.

The committee hopes to complete the hearings next week and then begin deliberating on what disciplinary actions, if any, to recommend to the full Senate.

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