Senators under investigation for helping Charles H. Keating Jr. battle federal banking regulators emotionally defended their integrity and denied any wrongdoing Friday before the Senate Ethics Committee.
``John Glenn does not peddle influence, period,' the Ohio Democrat told the panel of fellow senators. Sen. Donald W. Riegle Jr., D-Mich., held up a jigsaw puzzle and said the committee special counsel was missing some key pieces when he negatively described Riegle's conduct.The committee turned to personal defense statements by the ``Keating Five' senators after the counsel, Robert Bennett, wound up a day and a half detailing accusations and evidence against them.
In addition to Riegle and Glenn, Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz. and Alan Cranston, D-Calif. presented their statements. Cranston and Riegle showed considerable emotion in their appeals for exoneration.
Cranston's attorney said Friday that Sen. Jesse Helms, R-N.C., had made up his mind in a Senate Ethics Committee probe and asked that Helms be barred from participating.
But Helms, who made a comment about Cranston during the final week of his Senate campaign against Democrat Harvey Gantt, denied the charge and refused to step aside.
The request, delivered by Cranston's attorney, William W. Taylor III, provided a dramatic start to the second day of hearings into the Keating Five.
Taylor cited reports from Helms' recent, successful re-election campaign in which the North Carolina Republican had referred to Cranston as ``the leading water carrier' for Keating.
Helms acknowledged making the remarks. He said he did so after his Democratic opponent in the campaign received a contribution from Cranston's political action committee.
``Sen. Cranston injected himself into that campaign, and I was entitled to try to eject him. I make no apology for what I said because it was true,' Helms said.
The hearing adjourned until Monday, leaving only Sen. Dennis DeConcini, D-Ariz. to make his defense statement.
Bennett concentrated on Cranston, the Senate's No. 2 Democrat, on Friday, saying his help for Keating and the businessman's failing Lincoln Savings and Loan was ``closely connected' to political donations from Keating.