A top aide to California Sen. Alan Cranston told the Senate Ethics Committee on Tuesday that Cranston had strong disagreements with the top thrift regulator before he ever dealt with savings and loan owner Charles H. Keating Jr.

The focus of the ethics panel's Keating Five hearings turned to an examination of Cranston's activities with testimony from Carolyn Jordan, a lawyer and Cranston's staff assistant on the Senate Banking Committee.Under questioning from Cranston's attorney, William Taylor, she said Cranston had publicly criticized then-top thrift regulator Edwin J. Gray over Gray's proposed regulation sharply limiting the ability of savings and loans to obtain so-called brokered deposits. They are large sums obtained through financial incentives that increase the institution's assets.

Cranston also had opposed Gray's efforts to limit thrifts' ability to make direct equity investments, she said.

Jordan cited an April 16, 1984, memo she wrote to Cranston describing Gray's efforts as "heavy-handed," and accusing Gray of threatening the savings and loan industry with higher insurance costs if it did not drop opposition to his regulatory change on brokered deposits. She said Cranston later criticized Gray in a public hearing.