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Cranston's Defense in S&L Case

April 29, 1990

I serve as attorney to Sen. Alan Cranston (D-Calif.) in connection with the current Ethics Committee proceedings. I have thus far not commented publicly upon that proceeding, a policy also followed by counsel for the other senators and by counsel to the committee. The article (Part A, April 13) concerning this matter is so vicious and so inaccurate, however, that I am compelled to request that you print this letter.

The article bears the headline "Cranston's S&L Defense Weakened." This headline suggests that something newsworthy has occurred in the Ethics Committee matter, and the text purports to inform the public that Cranston's case has had a "major setback" because "investigators" have rejected a "key argument." According to the article, questions posed to a witness by committee investigators indicated that they do not accept as significant the fact that both former chairmen of the Federal Home Loan Bank Board have testified that nothing the senator did or said affected their decision not to take over Lincoln Savings. The article describes this testimony as a "central part" of Cranston's defense and implies that its rejection by investigators signals a turn for the worse in his case. The speculation of this witness (who insisted upon anonymity) as to the state of mind of his examiners is thus elevated into an authoritative comment on the committee's likely decision. That is absurd.

In the first place, Cranston's defense has been and will continue to be the truth. He did nothing improper or unethical. Whether regulators felt they were pressured is relevant, but hardly the "central part" of the defense. Second, the notion that a witness can conclude from the questions being asked how the questioner views the merits of a case is silly. Third, it is the members of the committee, and not the investigators, who will decide the legal and factual issues before them.

If your witness is someone who has an interest in rehabilitating his own reputation at the expense of Cranston (such persons do play a role in these events), it is scandalous. You are treating Cranston unfairly in a most fundamental way, that is by elevating the speculation of a witness whose credibility is undetermined into something close to Gospel, and making no effort to inform your readers of fundamental, undisputed facts.

Sen. Cranston deserves an apology and your readers deserve to know the truth.

WILLIAM W. TAYLOR III

Washington, D.C.

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