Partisan rancor over the Senate ethics committee's probe into five senators' ties to savings and loan executive Charles Keating Jr. spilled onto the Senate floor Monday as Republicans accused the panel of delaying action that could result in exonerating the only GOP senator in the case. Angry Democrats, including Majority Leader George Mitchell of Maine and committee chairman Howell Heflin of Alabama, countercharged that an "organized campaign of leaks" was being waged against three of the four Democrats who are under investigation.
Sen. John McCain of Arizona, the only Republican in the case, opened the debate with an emotional appeal that the committee act before Congress adjourns later this week on a special counsel's recommendation that no further action be taken against him and Sen. John Glenn, D-Ohio.
In a report to the committee Sept. 10, special counsel Robert Bennett recommended a further full-scale investigation of the other three: Sens. Alan Cranston, D-Calif., Dennis DeConcini, D-Ariz., and Donald W. Riegle Jr., D-Mich.
All five intervened on behalf of Keating's failing Lincoln savings and loan and received contributions from Keating. All have denied wrongdoing, but documents obtained by the committee indicated Cranston, DeConcini and Riegle had closer relations with Keating than they acknowledged.
McCain said he was prepared to accept whatever decision the committee makes, but added: "I cannot accept a deliberate effort to withhold the truth and the continued suspicion of a coverup."
McCain did not spell out what he meant by a "coverup," but some Republicans have complained privately that Democrats do not want to clear the lone Republican in the group until after the Nov. 6 congressional elections.