Martha Randolph Carr Martha Randolph Carr, 9/29/2008 [Archive]

A Judgment Call or Two

A Judgment Call or Two

By Martha Randolph Carr

Way back in the late 1980's there was a similar banking scandal involving billions of taxpayer dollars, that time in the savings and loan industry. Eventually, scores of small thrift banks failed and the government ended up creating a special unit to buy up toxic debt and slowly over years salvage what they could and get rid of the rest.

The reason why it's topical now isn't just because the federal government is using a similar rescue model to bail out Wall Street but also because of presidential nominee, John McCain's involvement both then and now.

Back then, the bank at the center, Lincoln Savings and Loan, was a subsidiary of American Continental Corporation and was owned by Charles H. Keating, Jr., a prominent real estate developer who was eventually found guilty of 73 counts of wire and bankruptcy fraud and sentenced to 12 years and 7 months in prison. He served only 50 months before the conviction was overturned on a technicality.

Wrapped up in the debacle were a series of unusual meetings two years before the collapse between banking regulators and five prominent US Senators, including John McCain. The meeting was at the behest of Keating who was calling in chits to get the regulators to back off of the ill-fated Lincoln. The regulators who were present would later say how much they were intimidated by the entire proceeding and Lincoln ended up with a little more time before eventually imploding.

The Senate Ethics Committee held hearings over 23 days in November of 1990 to investigate the meetings and the Keating Five, including McCain, as they came to be known. There was a good slap on the wrist passed out to all concerned and the taxpayers ended up with the billion dollar savings and loan hangover. Trading cards were briefly sold displaying Keating with each of the Senators.

During that time, it also came out that the Keating Five had accepted campaign contributions from Keating topping $300,000 with McCain receiving the lion's share. McCain had also made at least nine trips with his family at Keating's expense at a cost of over $13,000. Not all of it was reimbursed by McCain until after Lincoln was in serious trouble. And in 1985, a year before the meeting between the regulators and US Senators, McCain's wife Cindy and his father in law invested over $350,000 in a shopping mall development with Keating. None of it was in any way criminal, just a question of judgment.

Last week Senator John McCain suddenly awoke and realized he was key to solving the economic tsunami that still approaches. On Wednesday he announced that he was 'rushing' back to Washington to be a part of the very delicate negotiations and would have to back out of an appearance on Letterman's show at the last minute. Then he stayed an extra day in New York anyway and kept his appointment with Katie Couric, angering Dave. In the middle of it he also said the first of only three debates between himself and Obama should be delayed until we are out of the financial woods.

Obama responded by saying that a President needs to be able to do more than one thing at a time. McCain changed his mind and showed up for the debate.

When he did finally arrive at the White House meeting being held to come up with a solution he quickly helped a small group of Republicans to briefly unravel the deal that had already been put together by leading Democrats and Republicans and his party's leader, President Bush. Fortunately, the deal was repaired and will be presented to Congress this week. Again, all of it comes down to judgment, which is the most important quality of any good leader, particularly a US president in very complicated times where it will be necessary to juggle quite a few things at the same time.

Martha Randolph Carr's latest book, A Place to Call Home, a memoir about the reemergence of U.S. orphanages is available wherever books are sold. If you'd like Martha to come and speak to your group visit: www.newvoicespeakers.com. Martha's Big Adventure coming soon to World Talk Radio and Voice America. Email Martha at: Martha@caglecartoons.com or visit www.martharandolphcarr.com.

© 2008 Martha Randolph Carr. Martha's column is distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc. newspaper syndicate. For info call Sales at (805) 969-2829 or email Sales@cagle.com. Download Martha Randolph Carr's black and white mug shot photo.

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