McCain in Bed with Lobbyists; Taxpayers Get Screwed

Today’s New York Times quotes D&S author Bill Black, in the article critical of Sen. John McCain that is raising such a ruckus among the political commentariat—especially among the right-wing types who had been so down on McCain until recently.

Black was deputy director of the Federal Savings and Loan Insurance Corporation when McCain, along with the rest of the “Keating Five” (Sens. Alan Cranston, Dennis DeConcini, John Glenn, and Don Riegle) tried to influence regulators on behalf of Charles Keating, chairman of the then-failing Lincoln Savings & Loan. Black was one of the regulators the senators tried to influence; Edwin J. Gray, chairman of the Federal Home Loan Bank Board, was another. Keating had donated to all the senators’ campaigns, and McCain’s wife, Cindy, whom the Times describes as “the heiress to a beer fortune” in Arizona, had “joined Mr. Keating in investing in an Arizona shopping mall.”

The collapse of the Lincoln S&L cost taxpayers approximately $3.4 billion; the S&L crisis as a whole cost taxpayers more than $124 billion, according to the General Accounting Office.

(Side note: the scandal did not end the careers of any of the Keating Five; Cranston, DeConcini, and Riegle all served out their terms; Glenn and McCain both stood for re-election and won. Perversely, after his senate term ended, DeConcini was appointed by President Clinton to the the Board of Directors of the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation, aka “Freddie Mac”.)

The fuss about the Times article seems to be mostly about the somewhat weakly sourced suggestion that McCain had an affair with a lobbyist named Vicki Iseman. But to our way of thinking, McCain’s participation in the Keating Five scandal and the S&L crisis is still the bigger story. Here is what Bill Black told the Times:

Some people involved think Mr. McCain got off too lightly. William Black, one of the banking regulators the senator met with, argued that Mrs. McCain’s investment with Mr. Keating created an obvious conflict of interest for her husband. (Mr. McCain had said a prenuptial agreement divided the couple’s assets.) He should not be able to “put this behind him,” Mr. Black said. “It sullied his integrity.”

Black presents a full history of the S&L crisis in his book The Best Way to Rob a Bank Is to Own One: How Corporate Executives and Politicians Looted the S&L Industry. That crisis—much like the current banking crisis—was the result of banking deregulation and the “control fraud” that inevitably follows it, as Black’s recent D&S article shows.

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