Meetings that the so-called Keating Five senators held with bank regulators in 1987 capped a campaign of "private threats and public vilification" aimed at gutting federal oversight of the thrift industry, the nation's former chief savings and loan regulator told a Senate panel.

In his opening statement to the ethics committee Monday, Edwin Gray, the former chairman of the Federal Home Loan Bank Board, said accused S&L kingpin Charles Keating Jr. enlisted "paid apologists" to combat federal regulators to thwart measures to rope in a thrift industry gone wild in the 1980s.Gray's statement came at the end of the fifth day of hearings into whether the five senators - Dennis DeConcini, D-Ariz., Alan Cranston, D-Calif., John Glenn, D-Ohio, John McCain, R-Ariz., and Donald Riegle, D-Mich. - improperly pressured bank regulators to benefit Keating, who now faces racketeering charges in California.

Earlier, Laurie Sedlmayr, DeConcini's aide specializing in banking and financial issues, told the committee she strongly warned her boss against attending a 1987 meeting with Gray that has become a central part of influence-peddling allegations.

Gray is a key figure in the case against the five senators.

Without aides present, Cranston, DeConcini, Glenn and McCain attended a one-hour meeting on April 2, 1987, in DeConcini's office.

Gray has accused the senators of offering the government a deal on behalf of Keating that would have included dropping an investigation into Keating's California-based Lincoln Savings and Loan in exchange for certain concessions from the thrift.