With five senators on the hot seat for their dealings with the high-flying savings and loan magnate, Charles H. Keating Jr., many Senate aides are counting themselves lucky that they and their bosses steered clear of Keating. But one such aide can only count herself caught.
Carolyn D. Jordan, an aide to Sen. Alan Cranston (D-Calif.) on the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee, was constantly courted by the thrift industry. While her boss was earning himself a place of dishonor as one of the "Keating Five," Jordan was a guest at S&L functions in Orlando, Palm Springs and Toronto. Among the hosts paying the bills was American Continental Corp., Keating's company.
The S&L scandal has opened wide the doings of Congress so that the public can take a look at the ugly scene inside. People such as Keating did not stop at winning friends and influencing people in elective office. They wooed the staff, too.
We reported in July that the chief banking aide to Rep. Frank Annunzio (D-Ill.) had been wined and dined by Keating. Annunzio has since tried to pass himself off as a tough cop on the S&L beat.
Jordan's trips on the industry's dime do not help the case of her boss, Cranston, who is trying to back out of the ranks of the Keating Five.
From 1986 through 1988 -- even after the horror of the S&L scandal had begun to dawn on Americans -- Jordan was the guest of the thrift industry at a variety of functions. In May 1988, the National Council of Savings Institutions paid for her lodging and transportation to attend the council's annual meeting in Toronto. A spokeswoman for the council told our associate Scott Sleek that key Washington officials such as Jordan are invited to the meetings to discuss legislation.
Keating's American Continental paid Jordan's expenses during a trip to Phoenix in 1987, but a company spokesman said no one was left at the company who could explain why.
The trip that has caused Jordan the most grief is already a matter of public record and ridicule. Reports surfaced last summer that she took a nine-day trip to Europe in 1987 as a guest of Robert Royer, a lobbyist for Swiss bankers and the U.S. securities industry. The purpose, according to Senate documents, was to meet with foreign government officials to discuss securities issues.
Jordan failed to report the trip on her 1987 financial disclosure statement. She owned up to the trip with the required paperwork only after a reporter quizzed her about it. Then she told the Senate ethics committee that the omission was an honest mistake.
Last year, the ethics committee had to lean on Jordan twice before she submitted her financial disclosure records for 1988, three months after they were due. She was also late in filing her 1989 report.
Jordan did not respond to our questions, but a spokesman in Cranston's office said many congressional staff members take such trips. He said it's preferable to the industry to pay for such trips than for taxpayers to fund them.
Maybe the taxpayers would rather pay the bill and have public servants in debt to the public rather than special interests. And there is another option. The staff could stay home.