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. Ron

    Glad to see the Keating investigation finally being aired. While Senator McCain may not have broken the law, it was clear that he showed poor leadership and failed to take the moral high road. This example of a lack of leadership is exactly why we shouldn't be electing him as our leader.

    As for the Bill Ayers ordeal, I would hate to be tied to a man I knew when I was 8 years old. Bill ideas were wrong but a court cleared him of the charges and he has been an active community supporter and recognized college professor since then.

    Obama/Biden '08

    October 6, 2008 10:20 am at 10:20 am |
  2. David

    It's about time they point out how much Senator McCain was in cahoots on this. His words today are pretty and inviting, but his past actions speak far louder than those words; John McCain has favored deregulation for decades and is part of the reason our financial markets and economy are in the melt-down phase. I question if he should even be a Senator anylonger...much less President.

    October 6, 2008 10:20 am at 10:20 am |
  3. Bob Beckner

    We need someone on the Hill who is aware on foreign affairs and these financial issues at home! Each candidate about taxes this and that both have good issues, I would call them even! Yes even! On foreign affairs my nod goes to McCain. You cannot loligog around with the Russians, China, No Korea Iran, Venzuela $ whoevert else. We've got to put our foot down and strart playing hardball. Obama's suave talk won't get this handled. McCain will surely have Romney on his cabinet who happens to be a pretty good financial genious!(Olympics). McCain/Palin

    October 6, 2008 10:20 am at 10:20 am |
  4. Filipina

    McCain/Palin a pair of crook, you 2 are dangerous for this country.


    October 6, 2008 10:20 am at 10:20 am |
  5. Marc

    Politics as usual by Obama, no surprise here. Move along.

    October 6, 2008 10:21 am at 10:21 am |
  6. sharon

    McCain eluded prosecution by a loop hole. McCain is NOT what we need in leadership during this economic crisis. Might I add also? Palin is not of consideration. The VP doesn't have power. Shame on the GOP. McCain would take this country down a road of deceit and good old boys club rallies. Don't do it America...please. Our children's futures are at stake.

    October 6, 2008 10:21 am at 10:21 am |
  7. Barney

    It's even worse than Keating – the Hensley family has a long history of mafia-like relations going back many decades. Look up Cindy Lou Hensley – lots of family articles on Google. More corruption.

    Then there's the subpoena-dodging VP candidate –

    No More. No More. Not this time.

    October 6, 2008 10:21 am at 10:21 am |
  8. umeme2008

    old habits die hard. you can`t teach an old dog new trick. that why the deregulation is mcsame second name. the team of marvericks has nothing to offer ,just more misery.

    October 6, 2008 10:21 am at 10:21 am |
  9. Bulldog

    Just google McCain and the Keating 5. Keating gave McCain all kinds of lavish gifts, Cindy partnered with Keating to buy commercial investments, and the McCains spent alot of time at the Keating's Bahamas vacation home during the Savings and Loan crisis period of time.

    Put that together with Sarah Palin's current ethics investigation in Alaska that she suddenly refuses to cooperate with and has hired lawyers to try to block it. Her solution is to have a panel of 3 Alaskan officials do the investigation, 3 people Palin has the authority to FIRE. Come on now. Do think we are just plain stupid?

    October 6, 2008 10:21 am at 10:21 am |
  10. Kate

    Absolutely relevant .. these guys have destroyed this country!!

    October 6, 2008 10:22 am at 10:22 am |
  11. Randy

    Maybe 2 Democrats went to jail, but neither of them were Barack Obama.

    Nuf said

    October 6, 2008 10:22 am at 10:22 am |
  12. Stacy from Loudoun County, VA

    Well, there it is. If Senator McCain feels the need to continue this barrage of negative campaigning, the "darkest days of your life" will be brought back for the world to relive.

    To be honest, I hate this crap. I am an Obama supporter and I hate him doing this as much as I hate seeing McCain doing it. But, I don't fault Obama for fighting like this since he did not start it.

    October 6, 2008 10:22 am at 10:22 am |

    Good. Hammer this old pathetic liar and his marble headed running mate. If the republican party keeps running races like this they will become extinct.

    October 6, 2008 10:22 am at 10:22 am |
  14. Craig a Texas Democrat

    I think the point of this ad is about Judgment. McCains bad judgment cost American tax payers billions of dollars he is not fit to lead this country. He was erratic during the bailout he cant handle this countries diverse crisis.

    October 6, 2008 10:22 am at 10:22 am |
  15. kingpin

    Good thing about this, is that Obama can run twice as many ads as McShame!

    How can you say the Obama is desparate when he's ahead in all the polls (not that polls are right all the time)?

    October 6, 2008 10:22 am at 10:22 am |
  16. indy

    Obama and McCain have morphed into the same generic power hungry politician.

    Jindal 2012

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

    Around 1979 Obama started college at Occidental in California . He is very open about his two years at Occidental, he tried all kinds of drugs and was wasting his time but, even though he had a brilliant mind, did not apply himself to his studies. "Barry" (that was the name he used all his life) during this time had two roommates, Muhammad Hasan Chandoo and Wahid Hamid, both from Pakistan . During the summer of 1981, after his second year in college, he made a "round the world" trip. Stopping to see his mother in Indonesia , next Hyderabad in India , three weeks in Karachi, Pakistan where he stayed with his roommate's family, then off to Africa to visit his father's family. My question – Where did he get the money for this trip? Nether I, nor any one of my children would have had money for a trip like this when they where in college. When he came back he started school at Columbia University in New York . It is at this time he wants everyone to call him Barack – not Barry. Do you know what the tuition is at Columbia ? It's not cheap! to say the least. Where did he get money for tuition? Student Loans? Maybe. After Columbia , he went to Chicago to work as a Community Organizer for $12,000. a year. Why Chicago ? Why not New York ? He was already living in New York .

    October 6, 2008 10:23 am at 10:23 am |
  18. A CANUCK

    McCain takes three days off to bone up for the debate !!!...... Shouldn't he know what his platform is by now ????........ And while he's cramming.......he sends the neophyte out to do his dirty politiking....... now Palin knows what a VP does !!!!!!

    October 6, 2008 10:23 am at 10:23 am |
  19. Independent

    Well I am not happy about this...but it does force the topic back to the economy which is a plus i guess.

    October 6, 2008 10:23 am at 10:23 am |
  20. Get Real

    You McCain, said you would run an honorable campaign. Because you allowed dishonor, you are being exposed.

    What you do not see McCain is that those whom you gave free reign over your campaign are destroying you and the GOP. First of all, they really do not want you McCain, they just want the POWER, you are simply a means to that end. They have found the person that they can maniplulate and use even when you fade off the scene, – Sarah Palin.
    She is hungry for Power, They are Hungry for Power. Guess what McCain, if they must push you out of the way......Guess what They will.

    Amercians, however will not be tricked by fear and lies. We want truth and that is Obama/Biden '08!

    October 6, 2008 10:23 am at 10:23 am |
  21. lydia zewdu

    Obama aleady proved for America that he is a leader. He is the one arises above and always work hard on the issue that matters to Americans.

    McCain is a warmonger.

    October 6, 2008 10:24 am at 10:24 am |
  22. bij

    for those of you saying obama is getting desperate, lets not forget who started this-if mccain had stuck to the issues, this would have been left alone. Do you expect obama to watch on the side lines like a helpless negro? I mean come on! Who do you think Barack Obama is?! Those who ask "who is barack obama" know very well that he is a man of honor and the only way to bring him down is to define him as scary, and unlike "us"....SHAME ON YOU!

    October 6, 2008 10:24 am at 10:24 am |
  23. MikeH

    "When Facisim comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross".

    October 6, 2008 10:24 am at 10:24 am |
  24. lovinsun8

    It's about time!

    How can McCain fix the economy when he's part of the PROBLEM!??!

    October 6, 2008 10:24 am at 10:24 am |
  25. Jason G.

    Nice try. McCain was cleared of all wrong doing with respect to the Keating 5 incident. Bill Ayers, Tony Rezko and Rev. Wright were not. The dems. need to come up with something better than this. Oh yeah this is all they have to tie McCain to poor decisions. I smell a shift in the polls.

    October 6, 2008 10:24 am at 10:24 am |
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