A grim-faced John Connally, determined to bury his wheeler-dealer image, today dismissed a Dallas Morning News article on bank investments by his son and seven former aides while Connally was secretary of the treasury as a "vicious smear piece."
The copyrighted article, published Sunday, revealed that the Republican presidential candidate's son, John B. Connally III, and his former gubernatorial aides were among the original stockholders when the Love Field National Bank was chartered in Dallas in 1972. The bank is one of seven charter proceedings under investigation by the U.S. Senate Banking Committee staff for possible influence by Connally.
Connally told reporters after a speech to the Internal Association of Police Chiefs that he did not know of his son's involvement in the Love Field Bank until after its charter was approved by then-Comptroller William B. Camp. He said that his former aide and occasional business partner, Mike Myers, had taken his son into the deal.
The Love Field charter is one of the seven Texas bank charters approved by Camp, a native Texan now deceased, over the objections of his deputy comptroller and staff. The objections were based on assessments that various sites did not need additional banks.
The Senate investigators find this an unusual pattern of approval but they have no evidence that Connally held any conversations with Camp about the banks in question. Connally stated categorically that in his 15 months as secretary of the treasury, he did not involve himself with a single bank charter.
"I learned a long time ago not to involve myself with the granting of charters, I wouldn't touch one with a 10-foot pole," he said.
The Love Field bank was organized by Myers, who was an administrative assistant to Connally when he was the Democratic governor of Texas. Other initial stockholders included Julian Read, now head of candidate Connally's communications staff; Howard V. Rose, John Mobley, H. Scott Caven, George Christian, and Larry Temple. Of the 3,000 shares of stock originally held by John Connally III, 1,000 shares each have now been trasnferred to the candidate's daughter, Sharon, and his other son, Mark.
Myers, now Connally's Texas deputy campaign manager, told the Dallas Morning News that he would take a polygraph test to support his contention that Connally "had nothing at all to do with" the Love Field charter.
Connally appears determined to nip any allegations of bank charter favoritism in the bud. He told reporters that he was the subject of such a "vicious smear piece" simply because his campaign was making headway. "We can expect more of these types of stories. It's regrettable but Ive been through much worse than this," he said, in apparent reference to his trial and acquittal on charges of accepting a bribe to help raise milk price supports.
Connally called the Dallas Morning News story "political from end to end." He pointed out the writer Earl Golz, who was at the press conference, and said that "he has been working for seven months now, trying to generate something, but he can't develop anything because it's not there."
Golz later told reporters that he had never before written a piece about Connally and that he was not engaged in a vendetta against the former governor.
Golz said Senate investigators originally began checking charter procedures nationwide from 1970-77. They isolated the Texas cases for closer study when they discovered a correlation between Camp's overrides of staff recommendations and the presence of Connally associates in each incident, he wrote.
Larry Temple, a former aide to both Connally and President Johnson, invested in four of the seven banks, Golz reported. In addition to Love Field, Golz reported, the bank charters under examination are for Chevy Chase National Bank in Austin, organized by Temple; Meadowbrook National Bank in Fort Worth, Guaranty National Bank in Houston, Metropolitan National Bank in Houston, People's National Bank in Spring Branch and First National Bank in Round Rock.