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$200,000 American Continental Gift to Glenn Disclosed

July 22, 1989|CHARLES R. BABCOCK | The Washington Post

WASHINGTON — Sen. John Glenn (D-Ohio) received $200,000 in undisclosed corporate donations for his political action committee in 1985 and 1986 from the head of a California thrift for whom he later intervened with federal regulators.

Glenn's disclosure, prompted by queries from Ohio reporters, brings to at least $1.35 million the amount in donations and gifts that Charles H. Keating Jr. and his American Continental Corp. of Phoenix raised over a two-year period for the favorite causes of five senators who argued Keating's position in meetings with top officials of the Federal Home Loan Bank board in April 1987.

Earlier this week, Sen. Alan Cranston (D-Calif.) said he solicited $850,000 from Keating for three voter-education projects, including one started by his son. It has been reported previously that Keating and his business associates contributed more than $320,000 to Cranston, Glenn and three other senators who attended the meetings on his behalf.

Keating's thrift, Lincoln Savings & Loan of Irvine, was seized by regulators in April, a day after American Continental entered bankruptcy proceedings.

Glenn, whose campaigns also have received $34,000 in reported donations from Keating, his family and employees, said in an interview Thursday that there was no connection between the Keating donations and the senator's decision to attend the meetings with thrift regulators. "Do you forget the $234,000? No, you don't," Glenn said. "But that doesn't have one thing to do with whether I would compromise a vote or access to my office or my personal principles."

Glenn said he has known Keating, who is from Ohio, for years and has voted against other requests he made. He said he went to the meetings with regulators after investigating Keating's complaints about the length of an examination of Lincoln.

Edwin J. Gray, former chairman of the Federal Home Loan Bank Board, has said the meeting with the senators was a "grievous" attempt to "subvert the regulatory process." Glenn declined to respond to Gray's characterization.

The previously unreported $200,000 in donations for Glenn were made to his PAC, the National Council on Public Policy. They were arranged by James Grogan, a former Glenn aide who became Keating's corporate counsel. Grogan also approached Glenn's staff about attending the meeting with bank board regulators in 1987.

William R. White, a former Glenn aide who handled records for the now-defunct PAC, said Thursday that Grogan called him in the summer of 1985, saying Keating wanted to help Glenn. Grogran confirmed White's account, noting that Keating was a longtime supporter of Glenn.

At the time of the donations, Keating was actively campaigning to stop a proposed bank board rule that would limit Lincoln's direct investments outside the home mortgage field.

A short time after Grogan's call, American Continental made the first of two $100,000 corporate contributions to the PAC's non-federal bank account. The second $100,000 check arrived in March, 1986. Such donations are legal. They also are controversial because they do not have to be reported publicly.

Glenn said his sole purpose in attending the meetings was to find out whether Lincoln was being treated fairly. According to extensive notes of the discussion at the April 9, 1987, meeting, Glenn said, "I'm not trying to get anyone off. If there is wrongdoing, I'm on your side. But I don't want any unfairness against a viable entity."

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