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Berman Ranks 10th in Funds From Ailing S & L Industry

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Rep. Howard L. Berman (D-Panorama City) received $45,950 in campaign contributions from the scandal-plagued savings and loan industry in the 1980s, the 10th-highest amount among present House members, according to a Common Cause study released Thursday.

Among other San Fernando Valley area representatives, Elton Gallegly (R-Simi Valley), who was first elected in 1986, received $20,050, and Carlos J. Moorhead (R-Glendale) received $14,635, the citizens lobby reported. Rep. William M. Thomas (R-Bakersfield), whose district reaches into the Antelope Valley, received $11,800 since 1980, Common Cause said.

Common Cause said the funds helped influence legislation that eased regulation of savings and loans. The industry cleanup approved by Congress will cost more than $300 billion; the FBI is investigating 530 failed institutions for possible criminal violations.

“S & L interests provided millions of dollars in campaign contributions to members of Congress throughout the 1980s,” Common Cause President Fred Wertheimer said. “This contributed to the worst financial scandal in American history.”

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No Valley area representative has been directly associated with the scandal. None sit on the House Banking, Finance and Urban Affairs Committee. And Berman and Gallegly arrived in Congress after it passed the most important legislation deregulating the industry.

Many of the largest and most politically active S & Ls, including the failed Lincoln Savings & Loan Assn., were based in California. Lincoln gave $461,800 in contributions, Common Cause said. Six of the 10 biggest givers were California institutions; the top six House recipients were Californians.

The area lawmakers’ totals were relatively modest compared to the sums given to former Democratic leaders tarnished by the scandal. Former Speaker Jim Wright of Texas received $131,430; former House Banking chairman Fernand St. Germain of Rhode Island received $144,400 from 1981 to 1986.

“I’ve known some of these people for a very long time and some of them generally support things I’m doing here that had nothing to do with the S & L industry,” Berman said of his contributors. “I certainly solicited contributions, and they must have responded.”

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Berman said he opposed the industry by supporting the 1987 bailout proposal. The Reagan Administration called for $15 billion in new borrowing authority for the Federal Savings and Loan Insurance Corp. to bail out failing S & Ls.

The industry, which would have been required to pay interest on the borrowed funds, succeeded in lowering the bailout amount to $5 million on the House floor. The final figure was $10 billion.

Sen. Alan Cranston (D-Calif.) and four others are under investigation by the Senate Ethics Committee for intervening with federal regulators on behalf of Lincoln. Berman said he has never been asked to go to bat for any S & L.


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