Alexandria Mayor James P. Moran Jr. accused Virginia Rep. Stan Parris yesterday of helping create America's savings and loan crisis by voting to protect banking industry groups that have given him large campaign contributions.
Parris called Moran's charges groundless and ridiculous. Moran, a Democrat, is challenging Parris, a Republican, for Northern Virginia's 8th Congressional District seat.
Moran, hoping to tap a reservoir of public resentment against Congress's handling of the savings and loan industry, said he will hammer at Parris's S&L votes for the rest of their campaign. Along with abortion rights, which Moran supports and Parris opposes, the S&L crisis will be a major theme of Moran's bid to unseat Parris.
"His rhetoric on S&Ls is tough, but his actions aren't," Moran said. "He's guilty as sin of letting this happen. He was the fox in the chicken coop."
Parris, pointing out that he helped commission one of the first government reports warning of the impending crisis, said that Moran is attacking him because "when you've got no record to criticize, you criticize somebody else's. I'd like to know what he would have done when the S&L industry was falling apart."
Moran attacked Parris for supporting 1982 legislation that allowed S&Ls to invest in speculative ventures and, according to industry critics, opened the door to the crisis. He also charged that, as a member of the House Banking Committee, Parris "put special interests ahead of his constituents' interests," accepting $236,000 in contributions from financial service firms that the committee regulates.
As a Banking Committee member through most of the 1980s, Parris dealt in detail with laws governing S&Ls, and his vote there was proportionately more important than a vote in the full 435-member House. He said financial industry campaign contributions did not influence his votes.
Although Moran did not accuse Parris of illegal conduct, he said Parris consistently favored policies that produced the multibillion-dollar S&L bankruptcies plaguing the nation today. And he charged that Parris recently used a taxpayer-financed newsletter from his congressional office to distort his record.
"If you take money from the banking industry, if you vote their way, you don't send out a piece of political propaganda claiming you voted the other way," Moran said. "When things go to hell in a handbasket, you pay the consequences."
Parris said he favored legislation in the early 1980s that allowed S&Ls to enter new businesses, but that the law was not the source of the problem. "There was a laxity of regulation afterward," Parris said. "Much of the industry was taken over by a bunch of Texas crooks, and we failed to take corrective action."
Moran also criticized Parris for a more recent stand he took on a key regulatory matter, how much ready cash and assets S&Ls should be required to keep on hand. Congress passed a law requiring that these capital reserves be increased, but Parris favored a proposal to phase in the higher standards over several years. Moran charged that Parris was helping S&Ls keep regulations loose.
Parris said that his proposal to phase in the new standards allowed as many as 600 borderline S&Ls to avoid bankruptcy. "If you impose unattainable standards immediately, you slam these institutions into receivership," Parris said. "And the taxpayers would be stuck with the bill."