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. leslie

    Looks like Palin is running the show, not only is she new to the campaign, but it looks like she missed the already put-to-rest accusations! And, is McCain really that forgetful these days?

    October 6, 2008 10:24 am at 10:24 am |
  2. Mike H

    Now, we have Obama running for President. Valerie Jarrett, was Michele Obama's boss. She is now Obama's chief advisor and he does not make any major decisions without talking to her first. Where was Jarrett born? Ready for this? Shiraz , Iran ! Do we see a pattern here? Or am I going crazy?

    On May 10, 2008 The Times reported, Robert Malley advisor to Obama was "sacked" after the press found out he was having regular contacts with "Hamas", which controls Gaza and is connected with Iran. This past week, buried in the back part of the papers, Iraqi newspapers reported that during Obama's visit to Iraq , he asked their leaders to do nothing about the war until after he is elected, and he will "Take care of things".

    October 6, 2008 10:25 am at 10:25 am |
  3. Josh

    Why does McCain keep shooting himself in the foot like this? Starting with Palin, he has just started pandering to the Ulra-Right, while ignoring mainstream conservatives.

    October 6, 2008 10:25 am at 10:25 am |
  4. You Can Run But You Can Not Hide!

    "a combat vet " give a break, you are not the only one! Go get a life

    October 6, 2008 10:25 am at 10:25 am |
  5. Chicken Little's Hardhat Company

    I think it's ridiculous that during the greatest financial turmoil in the last 80 years McCain and Palin have turned to below the belt Swift-boat tactics (right now the Dow is below 10000 for the first time in years). It's also regrettable that Barack Obama's campaign has responded in kind, as this article suggests, but I guess slime breeds slime.

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

    GOP don't have no more ammunitions for this election.
    Let see what happen on october10th in Alaska with legislature comittee.

    October 6, 2008 10:25 am at 10:25 am |

    CORRUPT pitiful old warmonger=pow and a traitor

    JUDGEMENT? exactly like his running mate NONE

    ERRATIC? most of the time just like his running mate

    LIAR? all the time just like his running mate

    BOTH OF THEM? sickening


    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.


    October 6, 2008 10:26 am at 10:26 am |
  8. Jerry in Boston`

    Great stuff.

    Good to see the lessons of the 2004 campaign have been learned. The only way to deal with a despicable bully is to bloody their nose.

    Hit back Obama and HIT BACK HARD!!!

    October 6, 2008 10:26 am at 10:26 am |
  9. JB

    Obama playing smear politics while at the same time accusing McCain of using smear tactics. Is this is the change we need? Obama is just the same old Washington politician, nothing new. He will do and say anything to win the election.

    October 6, 2008 10:26 am at 10:26 am |
  10. LeFtOoO

    Friends of friends:

    What is the link with the Bin Laden family and the Bush family?
    Oh right, they were working hand in hand back in the days.


    October 6, 2008 10:26 am at 10:26 am |
  11. BM

    McCain may have been exonerated, but the facts are sill there. Obama was never brought up on charges of coruption, like McCain and Palin.(lol)

    October 6, 2008 10:26 am at 10:26 am |
  12. Peggy - TX

    It is good to remind voters that McCain is the worst kind of scoundrel there ever was that ran for political office. McCain is a relic from a by-gone, for good!!, era where politicians regularly cheated on thier wives, were self-indulgent, and then hid behind a facad of pleasentries and lies, while they acted to transfer wealth from the working folks to the wealthy and well connected.

    October 6, 2008 10:26 am at 10:26 am |
  13. Tony

    My 80 year old father ahs voted republiocan his entire life. This election he has decided to vote for Obama and Biden because he says he has become so disappointed in McCain, whom he saw as a man of character and role model, sink to an any, bitter, self-absorbed old man who will do virtually anything to get elected.

    He said the final draw came when McCain insulted the intelligence of all Americans with his choice of Palin.

    GO DAD!

    October 6, 2008 10:26 am at 10:26 am |
  14. Charlotte

    4 of the 5 were Democrats.

    October 6, 2008 10:27 am at 10:27 am |
  15. Tom

    Difference between this and McCain's attacks? This stuff is true, and there is plenty more regarding McCain. Obama has stayed as positive as possible, but McCain has now gone fully into the gutter and Obama will bring out the negatives to counter him–but he will do it factually. Take a lesson, McCain!

    October 6, 2008 10:27 am at 10:27 am |
  16. Roofin Reality, Houston, Tx.

    To "my dear friend" Deidre from 9:13,
    Obama has tried to play this thing the way he laid out in the beginning – above the fray and simply on the issues.

    But, when McCain who laid his map down of "run an honorable campaign that will not get down into the mud of personal politics", what do you expect his opponent to do?

    Put another way, I don't want to bomb anyone. But if the US is attacked, do you expect anyone to say "well, I committed to not bombing so we'll talk some more?" Of course not.

    Which is why McCain attacked Obama for saying he'd go after Al Qaeda interests in Pakistan IF Pakistan itself didn't go after them.

    Look, Obama is trying to play nice, and he can since he's got theupper hand on all issues. McCain on the other hand is dealing from a deficit position and has to throw all kinds of stuff to try to get back in the game. Obama simply isn't going to be the "nice guy" and let him do that without any opposition. Which, when we talk to Iran and North Korea, I'm sure they'll get that same msg. We'll talk, but those talks are expected to be fruitful in your actions. If not...

    October 6, 2008 10:28 am at 10:28 am |
  17. Ruth R.

    It is interesting how anything is game when the attacks come from Sen. McCain. Quite a double standard. I hope the American people are not fooled by his desire to portray himself as the "perfect one". The last few days development seems to me that it is "McCain first" and not "Country first" – all this talk of turning the page and going on attack mode makes it clear that our interest as Americans is not high priority for the McCain campaign.

    We need to elect the person who has our best interest at heart & not their own. Someone who will seek to change our lot going forward.

    October 6, 2008 10:28 am at 10:28 am |
  18. Brain in DC

    More deregulation?? Look at the stock market today.

    October 6, 2008 10:28 am at 10:28 am |
  19. independent in Texas

    Please, at this time all I want to hear, is what each canidate will DO to get us out of the mess we are in..PLANS, straight and simple..tell all of us mainstreet americanss HOW you will correct the economy, keep us from losing any more homes, pay our medical bills, put gas in our car to look for JOBS, put food on the table for ur kids...Please, oh please, just tells us your plans..so far I havent heard any from McCain..thats all I want to hear..HOW you will correct the economy and how MUCH more it is going to cost US...
    Texas independent

    October 6, 2008 10:28 am at 10:28 am |
  20. JL

    Great timing on Obama's side. October and another financial crisis is the exact right time strategically.

    If Obama runs this country the way he runs his campaign, he will be one of the greatest presidents of all time.

    October 6, 2008 10:28 am at 10:28 am |
  21. Chris

    Now hit him on his ties to a Communist group back when he started his run for Congress!!!

    October 6, 2008 10:28 am at 10:28 am |
  22. GPENN

    "About 300 guests turned out Saturday night to celebrate the 90th birthday of Joseph 'Joe Bananas' Bonanno, retired boss of New York's Bonanno crime family. He retired to Tucson in 1968. . . John McCain, R-Ariz., and Gov. Fife Symington sent their regards by telegram."
    The maverick,the "straight talk express",you've got to laugh.John McCain and Joe Bonanno a founding member of "the commission".

    October 6, 2008 10:28 am at 10:28 am |
  23. JUDE CT

    Now, I could really relate to this ad. As supposed to the meaningless ads McCain is running. " it's the economy stupid ".

    October 6, 2008 10:28 am at 10:28 am |
  24. jd

    McCain is disgraceful,I had respect for him,now I see as Bush 3

    October 6, 2008 10:28 am at 10:28 am |


    October 6, 2008 10:28 am at 10:28 am |
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