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Arizona Governor Defends DeConcini Aid for Keating

From Associated Press

Arizona Gov. Rose Mofford defended Sen. Dennis DeConcini at ethics hearings Friday, testifying that his help for Charles H. Keating Jr. was given at a time when the businessman was held in high esteem.

Mofford, who knew the Arizona Democrat as a 10-year-old altar boy, was a character witness for DeConcini--one of five senators under investigation for their intervention with federal regulators on behalf of Keating.

She testified that Keating was “considered a very successful businessman and very charitable” in 1987, when the senators discussed his complaints with thrift regulators.

Keating’s American Continental Corp. of Phoenix, parent of Irvine-based Lincoln Savings & Loan Assn., employed 3,500 people in 1987, Mofford said. The corporation was a major lender in Arizona and considered a solid company in which to invest.

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Federal regulators eventually closed Lincoln, a financial failure that is expected to cost taxpayers $2.3 billion.

The committee is trying to learn whether the $1.3 million raised for the five senators by Keating and associates influenced the conduct of DeConcini or Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Donald W. Riegle Jr. (D-Mich.), John Glenn (D-Ohio) and Alan Cranston (D-Calif.).

A theme in the defense of all five senators is that they provided normal constituent service to Keating, who complained that Lincoln was unfairly treated by thrift regulators.

“His work with constituencies certainly was a hallmark” of DeConcini’s career, Mofford said.

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“A problem was never too big or too small,” she said. “Any time there was a problem with the federal government, everyone would say, ‘Call Dennis DeConcini’s office.’ ”

One of DeConcini’s accomplishments, Mofford said, was getting President Bush’s anti-drug coordinator, William J. Bennett, to make the Arizona-Mexico border a high priority area for drug interdiction.

Bennett, recently named chairman of the Republican National Committee, is the brother of Robert S. Bennett--the Senate Ethics Committee’s special counsel in the Keating case.

After Mofford’s testimony, which lasted less than 20 minutes, the hearings were adjourned until Monday.

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