Closing comments may offer insight to ethics ruling on each of Keating 5

January 17, 1991|By Knight-Ridder News Service

WASHINGTON -- The Keating Five hearings ended yesterday with declarations of innocence and an array of emotion, as the five accused senators fought to reclaim their battered reputations.

The final arguments revealed not only vast differences among the five in their dealings with financier Charles H. Keating Jr. but, in all likelihood, also foreshadowed how the Senate Select Committee on Ethics will rule on each of the five cases.

Sen. John Glenn, D-Ohio, sat confidently as his attorney told the committee, "Senator Glenn does not want to skate by here. . . . He wants you to test him by the toughest ethical standards you can devise for yourself and your colleagues and him. And he meets that standard."

Sen. Donald W. Riegle Jr., D-Mich., looked discouraged and weary as his attorney tried to repair the damage the senator received a day earlier, when the committee's special counsel indicated Mr. Riegle had deliberately lied to the committee.

Sen. Dennis DeConcini, D-Ariz., launched his own fiery defense, insisting, "It was not a single constituent, a single person that this senator intervened for. It was a major employer of 2,000 people with a payroll of $50 million a year."

Sen. John McCain's attorney, brimming with confidence that his client would be cleared, insisted that the ethics committee give the Arizona Republican "a straight, clear, crisp finding, based on the evidence."

And the attorney for Sen. Alan Cranston of California, who is undergoing cancer treatment in California, told of how the Keating affair has deeply wounded the 76-year-old Democrat, who has already announced he will not run for re-election next year.

"After one of the finest careers in public service of any man or woman in this country, after standing up for peace and justice . . . now in the twilight of his career, Alan Cranston must face the accusation, whether expressed or implied, that he became Charles Keating's marionette," said his attorney, William Taylor.

The nine-week hearings focused on a list of separate ethical questions, most of them related to how far a senator can go in doing favors for a major campaign contributor.

Mr. Keating funneled $1.3 million to the campaigns or causes of the five senators, at least in part because he wanted their support in his bitter battle with savings and loan regulators. In 1989, Mr. Keating's California thrift, Lincoln Savings and Loan, was finally seized, sticking taxpayers with a colossal bailout bill of at least $2.3 billion. He is under indictment on felony fraud charges.

The committee, which will decide the case in private, will begin deliberations Jan. 30. It could vote to clear any of the senators, which several committee members indicate they intend to do for Mr. Glenn and Mr. McCain. The other three senators are more likely to face punishment ranging in severity from a letter of reprimand to removal from positions of leadership, a censure or denouncement on the Senate floor, or -- far more unlikely -- expulsion from the Senate.

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