Arizona Gov. Rose Mofford defended Sen. Dennis DeConcini at ethics hearings Friday, testifying that his help for Charles H. Keating Jr. came when the businessman was held in high esteem.

Mofford, who knew the Arizona Democrat as a 10-year-old altar boy, was a character witness for DeConcini - one of five senators under investigation for their intervention on behalf of former S&L owner Keating.She testified Keating was "considered a very successful businessman and very charitable" in 1987, when the senators discussed his complaints with thrift regulators.

Keating's American Continental Corp. of Phoenix, parent of California-based Lincoln Savings and Loan Association, employed 3,500 people in 1987, Mofford said. The corporation was a major lender in Arizona and considered a solid company.

Federal regulators closed Lincoln, a failure that's expected to cost taxpayers $2.3 billion.

The committee is trying to learn whether the $1.3 million raised for the five senators by Keating and associates influenced the conduct of DeConcini or Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., Donald W. Riegle Jr., D-Mich., John Glenn, D-Ohio, and Alan Cranston, D-Calif.

A theme in the defense of all five senators is that they provided normal constituent service to Keating.