Keating 5 Prosecutor Bob Bennett Speaks 10/6: McCain Exonerated

Keating 5 Prosecutor Bob Bennett, self-acknowledged Democrat, spoke with attorney Mark Levin about the investigation on Levin’s radio show Monday, October 6.

(The following is a transcript of the portion of the interview that is pertinent to the Keating 5 case. For a full transcript of the entire interview, which also includes an interesting conversation about the Iran-Contra scandal, visit this post. For audio of the full show, which Levin posts to his website go to marklevinshow.com.)

Mark: Well, first of all, your book, In the Ring: Trials of a Washington Lawyer. We’ve linked to that on marklevin.com. It’s a terrific book and that is why I want to talk to you.

Bob: Thanks, Mark, yeah.

Mark: You have a chapter on the Keating 5. And Bob, this is very important, now, because, people are bringing up, i don’t want to drag you into politics, but people are bringing up William Ayers, and suddenly this Keating 5 thing pops up again. Why don’t you tell us, give us a thumbnail sketch of what happened there and what was the deal about John McCain.

Bob: I’ll stick to the public record. What my role was – I was hired by a bi-partisan Senate Ethics Committee to investigate what was known as “The Keating 5″.  And in essence, what it was, was that there was something called the Direct Investment Rule which Charles Keating was opposed to. What it did was it basically said that Savings and Loans, which he owned one, couldn’t, were limited in where they could invest their money. Senator DiConcini scheduled a meeting with several Senators  to meet with the head of the Federal Home Loan Bank Board and pressure them.

And, Senator McCain attended that meeting. And one thing led to another and the Ethics Committee conducted an investigation. And I investigated it for a long, long time, well over a year. For the purpose of determining whether or not the Senators, including McCain, violated any standards, rules, ethical prohibitions. And at the end of the investigation, I concluded that Senator McCain and Senator Glenn should be exonerated, that is, that there should be no further action against them, but that was rejected by the Committee and there were some twenty-six days of public hearings.

As you know, Mark, ’cause on the occasions we’ve met, I- we argued some. I’m a Democrat, as you know. But, I had to call it the way the evidence dictated, and I called it that John McCain did nothing wrong. How Heflin, who at the time, was the Chairman of the Committee, was very concerned that there be twenty-six days of hearings with only Democrats in “the docks”, so to speak, so my recommendation about exonerating Senators Glenn and McCain was rejected and we went forward. But… it’s….and at the end of the day, it was pretty clear, from all the evidence, that there was no violation by Senator McCain.

I’m sorry to be so long but that’s in a nutshell, what happened.

Mark: Well, it’s important, because it’s a long time ago, we have five and a half million people listening and we gotta get this right, Bob. And, it seems to me, that based on what you’re saying, based on what I’ve read in your book, and what you’ve said before, frankly, that he was thrown into this for political reasons, and it’s being raised again, you don’t have to answer the last part, I’m commenting, it’s being raised now for political reasons. John McCain is not an unethical man, can you, can we agree on that?

Bob: Let me say this: from all the evidence, he’s not a friend of mine, although I guess, in the spirit of full disclosure, years after the Keating case, just this past year, he hired me as a lawyer, to represent him in connection with this dispute about lobbying he was having with the New York Times. But, at the time I made my findings, I was totally independent, and I’m not a surrogate of his in this political…. You know, I represent too many people on both sides of the aisle. But the direct, that as background, I certainly saw nothing in my investigation that would call into question, John McCain’s ethics. When he learned that there had been a referral to the Justice Department by the regulators, uh, he withdrew from any assistance to Keating and in fact, got into a big argument with Charles Keating, who called McCain “a wimp”, which did not sit well with the Senator. So, I certainly, based on my investigation in that case, saw nothing to call in to question John McCain’s ethics.

Mark: And you’ve represented, you’re right, people of all political stripes and so on.

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