Utahns believe corporate officers in charge of the failed savings and loan firms are most responsible for the huge, multibillion-dollar costs taxpayers now bear in the financial scandal, the latest Deseret News/KSL-TV poll shows.

The U.S. Senate Ethics Committee is deliberating the fate of five senators charged with ethics violations in connection with the scandal. Sens. Alan Cranston, D-Calif.; John Glenn, D-Ohio; Donald W. Reigle Jr., D-Mich.; Dennis DeConcini, D-Ariz.; and John McCain, R-Ariz.; appeared before the committee last week, saying they did nothing wrong in talking to federal regulators about a troubled savings and loan operated by Charles Keating. Keating raised more than $1 million for the senators' re-election campaigns or causes and has said that he hoped his support influenced the senators (see story on A7).Estimates of the cost to taxpayers to bail out Keating's failed Lincoln Savings and Loan total more than $2 billion. Keating awaits trial on federal fraud charges in connection with the savings and loan's failure.

Concern over the "Keating Five," as the senators are called, resulted in a renewed effort of campaign and ethics reform in Congress.

But Utahns don't believe Congress, in general, is responsible for the mess. Pollster Dan Jones & Associates found that only 11 percent of Utahns think Congress created the financial disaster.

Rather, 53 percent blame the operators - like Keating - for the failed financial institutions. Nine percent blame former President Ronald Reagan, whose administration pushed deregulation of a number of industries, including financial institutions. And Jones found that 15 percent said someone else was responsible, 12 percent didn't know who to blame.

Congress deregulated the savings and loan industry in the early 1980s, during the height of the Reagan revolution and when Republicans were in control of the U.S. Senate. However, despite warnings from many connected with the financial industry, including Utah Sen. Jake Garn, the federal government didn't act quickly in investigating and closing down failing savings and loans until the problem had grown considerably.


(poll chart)

Which of the following is MOST responsible for the S&L problems?

Ronald Reagan 9%

Congress 11%

Officers of the S&Ls 53%

Other 15%

Don't know 12%