Dear Sen. Cranston . . . . I received your Jan. 24 response to my letter . . . .
It is after midnight and Edwin J. Gray, president of a Miami savings and loan association, is hunched over an IBM Selectric III typewriter in his well-appointed office, pounding out a letter. He is typing as if his life depended on it.
\o7 Frankly, Sen. Cranston, you laid it on pretty thick, don't you think? Like accusing me of causing the whole S & L crisis, all by myself, with no help from anyone. Wow!\f7
An intense man, Gray, 54, who was chairman of the Federal Home Loan Bank Board during the Reagan Administration, pulls his eyes tightly shut as he searches for the right words. He rubs his broad forehead to refresh himself and refers often to the dozens of newspaper clippings scattered across his desk. Gray has been working on this letter since early evening, oblivious to the departure of his staff and the late-night rounds of a security guard. His is the only light still burning in the offices of Chase Federal Savings Bank.
\o7 Where, Senator, were you when I allegedly was causing the crisis? You were and are the Number Two ranking person on the Banking Committee. . . . Were you in hibernation that whole time?\f7
Although the letter is addressed to Sen. Alan Cranston (D-Calif.), Gray, who once served as press secretary to Ronald Reagan, actually has a larger audience in mind. When finished, it will be a 10-page, single-spaced letter replete with newspaper quotations and underlined words. As he often does, Gray will fax copies of the letter to all of the major news organizations around the nation as well as to many members of Congress.
This letter will become yet another chapter in what is fast becoming an intensely bitter and well-publicized feud between Cranston and Gray--a struggle between accused and accuser in a scandal that many people are calling "the Senate's Watergate."
In public testimony before the House Banking Committee last November and in a private deposition to the Senate Ethics Committee on Feb. 22, Gray has charged that Cranston tried in early 1987 to use his considerable influence to prevent government regulators from closing down Lincoln Savings & Loan of Irvine. He claims Cranston helped Lincoln because Charles H. Keating Jr., owner of Lincoln, contributed heavily to the senator's campaign.
In response, Cranston is blaming Gray for failing to take decisive action during his tenure at the bank board to prevent the collapse of the savings and loan industry. He contends that Gray could have stopped the mismanagement of Lincoln, whose collapse last April will cost the American taxpayers $2 billion.
\o7 Now, Sen. Cranston, sir, you've said that what Mr. Keating and his associates did for you--that is to say, the contributions to your political causes and campaign which totaled nearly a million dollars--had no bearing at all on your intervention with the regulators.
\f7 Few--if any--other former government officials would work as hard as Gray has to maintain a quarrel that began while they were in public office. But Gray has devoted many hours to monitoring Cranston's statements, responding with lengthy letters and being interviewed by news reporters about the Keating scandal.
And Cranston is by no means the only politician in Washington who still has Gray's attention. The former Reagan Administration official has become a primary news source for several of the biggest news stories of our time--including the entire collapse of the nation's savings and loan industry, the ouster of House Speaker Jim Wright and the investigation of the so-called Keating Five, which includes Cranston and Sens. Dennis DeConcini (D-Ariz.), Donald W. Riegle Jr. (D-Mich.), John Glenn (D-Ohio) and John McCain (R-Ariz.).
In fact, Gray has become such an important figure in these scandals that some people--particularly Cranston and the other four senators--are beginning to question his motives. Why, they ask, would a man who no longer works in government spend so much time giving interviews and issuing press releases? What has Ed Gray got against us? Is this really pursuit of the truth--or a personal vendetta?
Cranston, for one, describes Gray as "a publicity-hungry political hack" whose efforts are designed to obscure his own guilt for the savings and loan controversy and make amends to his fellow Republicans for "being a political albatross around President Reagan's neck."
By his own account, Gray is doing nothing more than setting the record straight. He wants history to record that he was not responsible for hundreds of billions of taxpayers' dollars that were lost in the savings and loan controversy. He wants everyone to know that he tried to warn the Administration and Congress of the impending disaster, and nobody was listening.