October 6th, 2008
10:15 AM ET
10 years ago

Obama camp raises McCain’s ties to Charles Keating

The Obama camp is highlighting McCain's ties to Charles Keating.

The Obama camp is highlighting McCain's ties to Charles Keating.

(CNN) - After months of avoiding references to the decades-old “Keating Five” scandal that nearly derailed John McCain’s political career, Barack Obama’s campaign is highlighting the Republican presidential nominee’s ties to Charles Keating, an Arizona businessman who went to prison during the aftermath of the savings and loan crisis of the 1980s.

The campaign is releasing a new 13-minute “documentary” about the scandal, and sending a message to supporters that ties McCain to the federal bailout that followed.

A preview of the new Web video, "Keating Economics: John McCain and the Making of a Financial Crisis," shows clips of McCain's hearings before the Senate Ethics Committee two decades ago, as the narrator says "the Keating Five involved all the things that have brought the modern crisis” and that McCain "has not learned the lessons and has continued to follow policies that are going to produce a disaster."

Watch: 'Keating 5' dogs McCain

McCain was one of five senators, dubbed the "Keating Five," who met with regulators on behalf of Charles Keating, the owner of Lincoln Savings and Loan.

Listen: McCain aides fight back over Keating on a campaign conference call

In a message to supporters Sunday, Obama campaign manager David Plouffe tied McCain to the lack of oversight that led to the savings and loan crisis of that era, and the massive federal bailout package that resulted. "During the savings and loan crisis of the late '80s and early '90s, McCain's political favors and aggressive support for deregulation put him at the center of the fall of Lincoln Savings and Loan," Plouffe writes. "More than 23,000 investors lost their savings. Overall, the savings and loan crisis required the federal government to bail out the savings of hundreds of thousands of families and ultimately cost American taxpayers $124 billion."

The Obama campaign had largely avoided mentioning the disgraced Arizona financier for most of the year. After an Obama backer referenced the Keating Five scandal this spring, the campaign appeared to distance itself from the comment — but Obama signaled it might be fair game later in the year: "I was just asked previously about a whole host of associations that are a lot more flimsy than John McCain’s relationship to Keating Five," he told reporters.

Two weeks ago, as controversy over deregulation and financial oversight began to dominate the public consciousness and the McCain campaign started to step up its attacks over Obama’s associations with controversial Chicago figures, Obama spokesman Bill Burton raised the issue for the first time since May. The McCain camp had accused the New York Times of supporting Obama's presidential bid; Burton responded by sending reporters a list of investigative stories the paper had run about the Illinois senator, complaining that McCain’s relationship with Keating had not come up for similar scrutiny over the course of the campaign.

The Senate Ethics Committee investigated and cleared McCain in 1991, but said that he showed poor judgment in his efforts for Keating, who had been a major contributor to his campaign. McCain later turned over $112,000 in campaign contributions from Keating to the U.S. Treasury.
The documentary will be released online at noon.

The move comes two days after Gov. Sarah Palin accused Obama of "palling around with terrorists who target their own country" because he was supported by Bill Ayers, a founding member of the Weather Underground.

Responding to the new attacks over McCain’s history with Keating, the GOP nominee’s spokesman Brian Rogers raised those links again.

"John McCain has been open and honest about the Keating matter, and even the Democratic special counsel in charge recommended that Senator McCain be completely exonerated,” said Rogers. “By contrast, Barack Obama has been fundamentally dishonest about his friendship and work with the unrepentant terrorist William Ayers, whose radical group bombed the Pentagon and the U.S. Capitol. Nor has Barack Obama come clean on his close friendship with Tony Rezko, a felon convicted on bribery charges who subsidized the purchase of Barack Obama's home. It's obvious that Barack Obama is frantically attacking because he knows that most voters find these kinds of friendships, and the failed judgment they expose, to be unacceptable for our next president."

Filed under: Candidate Barack Obama • John McCain
soundoff (188 Responses)
  1. hollerbode

    Two can play the game!

    October 6, 2008 10:02 am at 10:02 am |
  2. Ony


    Give it to him Obama! An eye for an eye!

    Frankly I think he's waited too long to give McCain a taste of his own medicine.

    October 6, 2008 10:04 am at 10:04 am |
  3. tulsa

    a response to the previous post;

    dear "truly American",
    You are the very worst kind of citizen. It would be good for all of us to remember that the last refuge of a scoundrel is patriotism.
    Just saying you are "truly american" is an insult to the millions of us who really ARE.
    I have a hard time believing anyone who wraps themselves in the flag to insult someone else.

    October 6, 2008 10:04 am at 10:04 am |
  4. Michael

    Two Democrats went to jail. 'Nuff said.

    October 6, 2008 10:06 am at 10:06 am |
  5. tulsa

    Mr Rogers,
    It is the McCain campaign who has begun this mud slinging. There is no responsibility you won't shirk, no truth you will not distort, no lie you will not tell to achieve your goal of POWER.
    You and your ilk are THROUGH. Deal with it.

    October 6, 2008 10:06 am at 10:06 am |
  6. Ashley

    Well....Its that time....Anythings Possible NOW

    October 6, 2008 10:06 am at 10:06 am |
  7. Tiffany


    October 6, 2008 10:07 am at 10:07 am |
  8. Candy West Virginia

    Way to strike back Obama. If Obama runs this country like he has brilliantly run his campaign this country will be great again! But you forgot troopergate, AIP, DEREGULATION, Witch Palin to name a few.
    mccain/palin = pathological liars!

    October 6, 2008 10:07 am at 10:07 am |
  9. Barbara Chicago, IL


    October 6, 2008 10:07 am at 10:07 am |
  10. Kwabena`

    Finally, we see some flexing of the muscle. Go Obama! Don't let them "swift boat" you.

    October 6, 2008 10:08 am at 10:08 am |
  11. Dutch-VA

    Yes!! Take the gloves off Sen. Obama. If they want to run a smear campaign based on lies, we can run a smear campaign based on the truth. I've been waiting for you to call him out on this. Let's talk about why Sen. McLame really left his first wife. McLame has so much dirt, he is so easy to expose.


    October 6, 2008 10:08 am at 10:08 am |
  12. bobby

    Check Mate!

    October 6, 2008 10:08 am at 10:08 am |
  13. Annan

    This is tit for tat . McCain is getting a taste of his own medicine

    October 6, 2008 10:08 am at 10:08 am |
  14. alex

    Wow its about to get really ugly now!

    October 6, 2008 10:08 am at 10:08 am |
  15. Bob Indianapolis IN

    Kind of tough changing the conversation away from the economy that the Reptilicans have created since those glory days of St. Ron Reagan. First the S&L debacle and now this!

    I believe during this election, we the American people are going to tell the Greedy Old Party that ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!!!

    October 6, 2008 10:08 am at 10:08 am |
  16. Michael J, Toronto

    How desperate can Obama get? Bringing up a non-issue from over 20 years ago? Did Obama get the memo? John McCain was cleared

    October 6, 2008 10:08 am at 10:08 am |
  17. Jon

    John McCain's ties to bank scandals of the past make him "unacceptable for our next president" in a time of economic crisis such as this. McCain has absolutely no authority to speak about economics and in fact is a huge part of the reason that we're in such an economic hole today. He should do the honorable thing and step aside, but we all know that the McCain campaign is anything but honorable.

    October 6, 2008 10:08 am at 10:08 am |
  18. SDunn

    Yep and guess what? It's relevant!! McCain is the King Deregulator!

    October 6, 2008 10:09 am at 10:09 am |
  19. Democrat from AZ

    With all the junk that McCain has been drudging up, this was bound to come up. McCain fights dirty and should have expected it

    October 6, 2008 10:09 am at 10:09 am |
  20. Sweetie

    If Obama was a viable candidate he would be ahead by double digits.

    There are way too many questions that haven't been answered yet about Obama-including his Birth Certificate!

    Vote for experience and a proven track record!

    McCain/Palin-08 In a Landslide!

    October 6, 2008 10:09 am at 10:09 am |
  21. Frankie S

    Who's getting desperate in the last days? It looks like Obama is very desperate! If Democrats would have voted for John McCains bill to oversee Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac this whole financial meltdown would not have happened! And you want to hand over our government to the Democrats! That would be treason in my book!

    October 6, 2008 10:09 am at 10:09 am |
  22. Raymond Duke

    This will not help Obama to much on this ad. It is not going to affect the over 40 vote. Everybody knows about it and that John McCain along with John Glenn a democrat was exonerated with no ties. It was mainly a democrat scandal that caused the democrats to lose their seats and the ones who went to jail were all democrat (politicians). This was during a democrat congress with them holding the majority.

    October 6, 2008 10:09 am at 10:09 am |
  23. independent

    McshameBushPalin, Let's go back to the issues. If you have nothing more to offer, then give up and campain for Obama/Biden!
    The more you attack, distract, theunpopular you become>
    Remember, we"l decide.

    October 6, 2008 10:09 am at 10:09 am |

    McCain should be ashamed of himself.

    October 6, 2008 10:09 am at 10:09 am |
  25. LongV

    American people know John McCain, but who is Barrack Obama?

    October 6, 2008 10:10 am at 10:10 am |
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