Arizona Sen. Dennis DeConcini acknowledged Thursday that he called California authorities to urge the sale of Charles H. Keating Jr.'s savings and loan just days before federal regulators seized the thrift institution.
DeConcini, testifying at the Senate Ethics Committee's hearing on the so-called Keating Five, said he was trying to avoid a government takeover of Keating's Lincoln Savings and Loan and wanted to see if the state regulators planned to try to block a sale of the California-based Lincoln.DeConcini said he made the calls after the top federal regulator, M. Danny Wall, suggested there were "other players" involved in the decision. He said he recalled Wall mentioning California regulators.
DeConcini made the call in April 1989, before the government seized Lincoln on April 14. Federal regulators had rejected Keating's bid to sell Lincoln, ruling that the proposed buyers were actually Keating-associated insiders.
DeConcini, D-Ariz., faced a second day of questioning before the Senate Ethics Committee Thursday after insisting Wednesday that his conduct was activist but ethical.
DeConcini clashed with committee special counsel Robert S. Bennett and accused him of using hearsay evidence to misrepresent his contacts.
"It's just absurd, Mr. Chairman," DeConcini protested to committee Chairman Howell Heflin, D-Ala., who overruled his objections. DeConcini objected to an affidavit by California's banking commissioner giving a second-hand account of DeConcini's call to another California official.
Bennett's deliberate questioning of DeConcini sparked complaints from members of the ethics panel and defense attorneys that he was moving too slowly and focusing on minor events.
"We've gone on way too long, Mr. Chairman, and it's time to stop it," said James Hamilton, DeConcini's attorney. "We're scraping the bottom of the barrel."
"I know where the line is and I did not cross it," he maintained. "I'm very satisfied I violated no rule, no spirit of any rule."
DeConcini is the fourth and final member of the so-called Keating Five senators to undergo public examination in the ethics panel's investigation into whether the lawmakers acted improperly on behalf of Keating.