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. Mike, Atlanta

    Mccain and some of his Republican friends are "Economic Terrorist"...

    October 6, 2008 10:15 am at 10:15 am |
  2. mike33

    It looks like all the McCain camp has left are bogus arguments and historically inaccurate allegations that have been out for months and years. All this stuff was around during the primary process and the electorate in charge of choosing the party nominees voted state by state to have Obama carry their message to the White House. It looks like Sean Hannity-type operatives are now in charge of the campaign and message - and the sliver of undecided's, independent's and moderates who have yet to commit have a choice of buying it or not!

    October 6, 2008 10:15 am at 10:15 am |
  3. therealist

    When is Obama going to admit his poor judgement and turn over the millions of illegal contributions coming from unknown sources in the Middle East?

    October 6, 2008 10:15 am at 10:15 am |
  4. Kelby from Houston, TX

    The Keating 5...look it up, do your research, know your candidate Republicans. The corruption, the scandal, the selling out of the American people.

    John McCain is out of touch, out of ideas and he is running out of time.


    October 6, 2008 10:15 am at 10:15 am |
  5. Edge of cliff

    Keating is the real danger alright. Why even bother with the other candidate who has been steeped in radicalism his entire life?

    Nothing to see here.

    October 6, 2008 10:15 am at 10:15 am |
  6. Tony


    Alan Cranston (D-CA)
    Dennis DeConcini (D-AZ)
    John Glenn (D-OH)
    Donald W. Riegle (D-MI)
    John McCain (R-AZ)


    October 6, 2008 10:15 am at 10:15 am |
  7. Xavier, Saint Louis, Missouri

    The gloves are off and it's on like a pot of neck bones! McCain and Palin want to hit below the belt and Obama is throwing punches right back at them! Get em’ Obama!


    October 6, 2008 10:15 am at 10:15 am |
  8. Jen

    Finally the Obama campaign is gonna hit McCain where it hurts.....oh and by the way you ntice how in the debate sarah palin says not to look backwards but forwards.....she can't have it both ways...palin is a joke

    October 6, 2008 10:15 am at 10:15 am |
  9. Donna

    It is also extremely important to note the concession today by the McCain campaign that their health care plan would involve significant cuts to Medicare.

    October 6, 2008 10:16 am at 10:16 am |
  10. sensiblegal

    Maybe Sarah Palin did not read this information about the other maverick.. Oh that's right she doesn't read.. I find it funny she references an article in a newspaper, she doesn't read.. Everything she says is downloaded in her tiny little brain.. Dumb and Dumber are the candidates on the Republican ticket..

    October 6, 2008 10:16 am at 10:16 am |
  11. Jason

    All I can say is this: FINALLY.

    After the McCain camp's slander over Obama's ties (or rather lack thereof) with Ayers, they deserve to have their candidate put on the spot. Unlike the OBAMA-IS-A-TERRORIST smears, the Keating Five scandal is a matter of public record-as in, there are facts (wow!).

    October 6, 2008 10:16 am at 10:16 am |
  12. Undecided 08

    Is this true? In light of the recent financial crisis, I would like to hear more about this.

    October 6, 2008 10:16 am at 10:16 am |
  13. Palin thinks the Bush Doctrine is an OBGYN

    The McCain camp has resorted to diggin through the past because they are desperate...Obama has again used his counterpunch.

    Obama-Biden 08
    True Change!

    October 6, 2008 10:16 am at 10:16 am |
  14. wanda a.




    October 6, 2008 10:16 am at 10:16 am |
  15. PUMBU

    Palin is an attack chihouhoua, McCain should have just picked Tina Fey, Palin is a joke!!!!!!!!!!!

    October 6, 2008 10:16 am at 10:16 am |
  16. J L

    OBAMA -- TRIED - TO -- AVOID -- THIS !!!!!


    So after 19 months, Obama is forced to start fighting back.

    McCain, I will be glad when you're DONE!!!!

    October 6, 2008 10:16 am at 10:16 am |



    October 6, 2008 10:16 am at 10:16 am |
  18. Becky

    McCain = poor judgment

    John Kerry lost the last election because he didn't fight back. I applaud Obama for fighting back. WITH FACTS no less.

    People are registering Democrat in key states, and Republicans are hoping these new voters won't vote on November 4th. Let's Prove Them Wrong.

    October 6, 2008 10:16 am at 10:16 am |
  19. Michelle D. - Atlanta, GA

    Didn't know much about economics back then...doesn't know much about economics now. Just knows which side his bread is buttered on obviously.

    We deserve better...

    October 6, 2008 10:17 am at 10:17 am |
  20. Olivia

    McCain was absolved of any wrongdoing. I think the obama people should say this, otherwise they are presenting just a half of the story.

    October 6, 2008 10:17 am at 10:17 am |
  21. Election Watcher

    What about Obama's questionable ties?
    He needs more silk, less synthetic.
    Ties, that is.

    October 6, 2008 10:17 am at 10:17 am |
  22. LB

    What comes around, goes around. McCain and Palin started this negative campaign with their lies and now they deserve to have their reputations drug thru the mud too. Obama should of also put in the ad that Palin is currently under investigation in her state for miss using her powers as Governor along with the McCain Keating 5 information. If the McCain camp wants to run sleezy ads then they should expect to receive the same treatment back.

    October 6, 2008 10:17 am at 10:17 am |
  23. Trysh in Los Angeles


    October 6, 2008 10:17 am at 10:17 am |
  24. TyWebb

    About time...

    October 6, 2008 10:17 am at 10:17 am |
  25. Ted

    This shows McCain's economic philosophy, it's fundamentally wrong.

    October 6, 2008 10:17 am at 10:17 am |
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