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To mark our 30th anniversary, we’ve reached into our archives to highlight key events and players who made a difference since we made our debut. The following is adapted from articles in the Dec. 17, 1990, edition…
The senators who face charges of improperly intervening with regulators on behalf of Charles Keating Jr. are mounting defenses that differ in both style and substance. Here are synopses of these efforts: DECONCINI: COMBAT TACTICS Sen. Dennis DeConcini (D-Ariz.) has become an integral part of his legal defense team. He meets daily with his lawyer, James Hamilton of Olwin, Connelly, Chase, O’Donnell & Weyher, and has planned legal strategies. The senator has displayed his hands-on approach in a number of ways. For example, his impassioned statement attacking Special Counsel Robert Bennett’s objectivity as well as other aspects of the case was purely DeConcini’s work, the senator relates. The assault on Bennett’s investigation and evenhandedness has emerged as a constant theme of DeConcini’s defense. “I resent Mr. Bennett,” the senator often says. GLENN: THE INVISIBLE DEFENSE From the beginning, Sen. John Glenn (D-Ohio), represented by Charles Ruff of Covington & Burling, has kept his distance from the adversarial aspects of the proceedings. On the first day of testimony, he was the only senator to sit alone before the Senate Select Committee on Ethics; Ruff sat behind him at another table. And since his opening statement, delivered while seated, Glenn has virtually disappeared from both the hearings and the media coverage about them. Ruff, meanwhile, has been careful to distance his client from the other senators. MCCAIN: DAMAGE CONTROL Ever since Bennett said that charges should be dropped against Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), his attorney, John Dowd of Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, hasn’t expended much energy defending his client. McCain probably faces little trouble from the panel, so his defense appears aimed at his constituents. Politically, McCain is vulnerable to fallout from allegations that he intentionally failed to repay Keating for expenses incurred during a vacation their families took together. Dowd can be a scrappy litigator, and he has been most aggressive defending his client on this tangential charge. CRANSTON: LEGAL COUNTERATTACK Except for William Taylor III’s politically savvy request that ethics committee member Sen. Jesse Helms (R-N.C.) recuse himself from judging Sen. Alan Cranston, the California Democrat’s lawyer has presented the Keating Five’s most traditional legal defense. Since Cranston has announced he will not seek re-election, the ethics probe has minimal political ramifications for him. Instead, Taylor, of D.C.’s Zuckerman, Spaeder, Goldstein, Taylor & Kolker, has dealt directly with the documentary evidence. He has tried to hammer home the point that the Keating Five broke no ethical standards because no explicit ones exist. RIEGLE: STILL TAKING SHAPE Because the case against Sen. Donald Riegle Jr. (D-Mich.) has yet to gel, his counsel, Thomas Green of Sidley & Austin, has been left with some murky territory to plow through. While Riegle has tried to lay low, Green’s rough-and-tumble style is unmistakable; his booming voice and confrontational manner serve as a reminder of how adversarial these fact-finding hearings have become. Once, after interrogating witness William Black two weeks ago, Green lashed out at Black outside the hearings over references Black had made to Sidley & Austin’s past work for Keating.
Update: Echoes of the Keating Five scandal were heard again last week as Sen. John McCain, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, defended himself against allegations about his relationship with a lobbyist. This time, however, Robert Bennett, the special counsel appointed to investigate the Keating Five scandal, is the senator’s chief defender. McCain is the only member of the Keating Five still in Congress. Cranston, who died in 2000, was recommended for censure by the ethics panel. He, along with DeConcini and Riegle, decided not to run for re-election after the scandal broke. Glenn, however, sought another term in 1992 and won. The former astronaut retired in 1999 — though not before going into space one more time on the shuttle Discovery.

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