Republicans and Democrats continued to spar yesterday over which party is to blame for the collapse of the savings and loan industry, as a leading GOP political strategist charged that House Speaker Thomas S. Foley (D-Wash.) "has to bear some responsibility" for the costly scandal.
Conceding that the involvement of President Bush's son Neil in the failure of a Colorado thrift has left the GOP on the defensive, National Republican Congressional Committee Co-Chairman Edward J. Rollins said Foley "obviously knew what was going on" as the thrift industry headed toward collapse.
Appearing on NBC News's "Meet the Press," Rollins continued a broad attack on the Democratic Party he began last week during the annual summer meeting of the Republican National Committee in Chicago. As the S&L issue ripens into a major election-year political issue, Rollins said Foley and other Democrats who control Congress and who took campaign contributions from savings and loan industry sources would have to answer the question, "What was the price?"
By contrast, said Rollins, Neil Bush -- who served as a director of the failed Silverado Banking, Savings and Loan -- was merely a "passenger on the Titanic."
Responding on the same program, Democratic National Committee Chairman Ronald H. Brown traced the thrift debacle to the love affair of two successive Republican administrations with deregulation of the financial industry. He accused the Bush administration's Justice Department of a lack of leadership in prosecuting thrift fraud.
"There's been a complete failure of management on the part of this administration," Brown said. "The question is: What we do from here? The president is in charge. We need presidential leadership. We need leadership from this do-nothing Justice Department."
That prompted a reply from a Justice Department spokesman, who said in a written statement that Brown was "either sadly misinformed or purposefully distorting" the administration's record. The Justice Department, the statement said, has in the past 21 months obtained indictments of 329 individuals in the thrift industry, winning convictions of 213 of them.
Foley was out of town and had no immediate comment on Rollins's charges, a spokesman for his office said. However, on Friday, Foley sharply criticized Rollins's speech to the RNC, accusing the NRCC co-chairman of "emotional ravings" and of being "an out-of-control person."
Meanwhile, Rep. Patricia Schroeder (D-Colo.) said she would continue to seek support for a congressional request that Attorney General Dick Thornburgh appoint an independent counsel to probe possible criminality in the Silverado collapse. Schroeder on Friday briefly had the majority of House Judiciary Committee Democrats she needed to send a letter to the attorney general that would have set in motion a Justice Department review of the independent counsel request, but one of the signatories changed his mind.
Appearing on CBS News's "Face the
Nation," Schroeder said an independent
counsel is needed because of Neil Bush's ties with the thrift as well as those of several other people closely linked to the Republican Party.
But Thornburgh, speaking on ABC News's "This Week With David Brinkley," said he was not aware of any credible allegations of criminal wrongdoing by Neil Bush. "I don't think it would be fair to anyone, any citizen in the United States, to appoint an independent counsel or special prosecutor where there are no allegations of criminal misconduct," he said.