The Senate Select Committee on Ethics says only one of the five senators accused of trying to influence government regulatory policy in behalf of financier Charles Keating transgressed. That was Sen. Alan Cranston, the California Democrat who is ill and has announced he will retire. What was his transgression? He "may have engaged in improper conduct reflecting upon the Senate."
In other words, whatever Senator Cranston may have done that corrupted the regulatory process or helped bring about the multi-billion-dollar public bailout of Mr. Keating's scandal-plagued Lincoln Federal Savings and Loan was immaterial. What counts is that he made the Senate look bad.
Many Americans would say that the Ethics Committee's conduct reflects upon the Senate. The committee not only gives the appearance of selective prosecution, it appears to have arrived at its conclusions after secret wheeling-and-dealing sessions in which personal and partisan motives were involved. Before they went behind those closed doors, some of the six Ethics Committee members were known to want to condemn at least two or three of "the Keating Five." The decision not to do that was unanimous. This suggests a deal was made to keep the matter from going to the full Senate for open debate on what senators are supposed to do and not supposed to do for influential supporters and campaign contributors.