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For some mysterious reason, Obama and other Dems have been reluctant to hit McCain for his role in the S & L scandal. That may be changing now because McCain's experience pressuring regulators has never been more relevant.

Sherrod Brown, one of the Senate's most populist and progressive members, has hit McCain for his role in the scandal. Granted, Brown isn't in Obama's inner circle--he remained neutral in the primary--and it was far from a blistering attack--it came in the context of a broader swipe--but it's encouraging, and signals that Dems may be willing to revisit McCain's role in the sordid scandal.

Here's Brown:

It is not so much his economic proposals but his economic record. His main adviser is Phil Gramm -- he was his mentor in the Senate -- and you just tie it all together. Of course John McCain supported the oil industry, he has oil lobbyists working for him. Of course John McCain supported these trade agreements, he has got Wall Street people working for him... It is all wrapped up together. John McCain is a creature of these interest groups in Washington. He is no maverick and, from the Keating Five on, his ethics have been questionable. He's not a maverick and Barack has got to just keep hammering on that.

As David Sirota says:

the issue of McCain's formative regulatory experience coming as a member of the Keating Five pressing federal financial regulators to stop doing their job in advance of the S&L crisis. Though that crisis is the most analogous economic event to today's Wall Street meltdown, it is an issue that, until Sen. Sherrod Brown's statements today, no major elected Democrats have really touched.

Not only does McCain not have a record of supporting regulation: he has a record of unethically pressuring regulators. Why did he do it? To help a major donor.

McCain used the power of his office to get regulators to back off the troubled Lincoln Savings and Loan, which just happened to be run by a major campaign contributor: Charles Keating. As for the fiction, that McCain was somehow less guilty than the other members of the Keating 5:

Dennis DeConcini, a former Democratic senator from Arizona and another of the Keating Five who hosted the key meeting in his office, said in an interview that McCain has gotten a relatively "free ride" even though DeConcini insists that McCain was the "most culpable" of the senators because he had the closest relationship with Keating.

You should read that entire Globe article, which also tells us that:

McCain met Keating in 1982, during McCain's successful run for Congress, and soon began accepting offers from Keating to fly McCain's family on a corporate plane to Keating's house in the Bahamas. McCain did not pay for most of the trips until years later, when the matter became public.

And quotes a federal regulator who attended the meeting where McCain sought to protect his contributor from oversight.

"This was an institution that is probably the worst institution in America," Black said, referring to Lincoln. Instead of trying to help "bring it under control, five US Senators were pushing us in the opposite direction."

Lincoln's bankruptcy cost taxpayers 3 billion dollars.

It's a darkly comic joke, McCain's pretending he supports strong regulation.

Originally posted to david mizner on Wed Sep 17, 2008 at 11:26 AM PDT.

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