The member of Congress who is boasting about exposing the shortcomings of first son Neil Bush lives in one of the biggest glass houses on Capitol Hill.
Rep. Frank Annunzio (D-Ill.) is chairman of the House subcommittee on financial institutions supervision, regulations and insurance. He sports a button demanding jail time for the "S&L crooks."
That is the new Frank Annunzio -- born again in an election year when it is fashionable to whip the savings and loans. The old Frank Annunzio was not nearly so harsh. That is because he takes his cues on the S&L issue from his chief banking assistant, Curtis A. Prins. And in 1987, Prins was eating dinner in the home of Charles H. Keating Jr.
Keating is the former owner of Lincoln Savings & Loan. The taxpayers own it now, and its collapse will cost them about $2 billion. It has been fashionable to blame the "Keating five" -- five senators who took big campaign contributions from Keating and then went to bat for him against S&L regulators who knew better. From the look of things, the "Keating five" had better make room for more.
Our associates Michael Binstein and Tim Warner have learned about two trips Prins took at the invitation of the generous Keating.
On March 2, 1987, Prins flew to Southern California and Arizona to, in his words, acquaint himself with the operation of Lincoln Savings & Loan. He also acquainted himself with the Crescent Hotel, then owned by Keating, where he stayed free. And he was a dinner guest at Keating's home.
Traveling with Prins was Dave Evans, a Washington lobbyist for Keating's holding company, American Continental Corp. Evans, a former Democratic congressman from Indiana, has been one of the most visible and aggressive advocates for Keating on Capitol Hill. Last year, for example, he sought to short circuit a House Banking Committee investigation into Keating and Lincoln.
Annunzio and Prins have been among the most outspoken critics of a regulation that Keating also sought to kill. It would have reined in the investment powers of industry highfliers.
After Prins enjoyed Keating's hospitality in Arizona, he and Evans took a side trip to Las Vegas on Keating's jet. They stayed at Bally's Casino and Resort, and Evans picked up the bill.
Within a month, Prins was the dinner guest of Evans and another Keating lobbyist, James Grogan, at the pricey District restaurant, Lion D'Or.
In line with the ethics rules of the House of Representatives, Prins reported the trip to California and Arizona on his financial disclosure form. He listed the reason, to "visit savings and loans to discuss . . . recapitalization legislation." The form says Evans paid the bills. Prins failed to mention the side trip to Las Vegas. He now claims that he repaid Evans "in cash."
When asked about favors from Keating, Prins told us, "Keating snookered me. I wasn't the only one."
Annunzio accepted $3,000 in campaign contributions from Keating. He is caught in a tough reelection race in Chicago where his opponent is making claims that Annunzio is more responsible than others for the S&L fiasco.
The revelations about Annunzio's staffer hint that there is plenty of blame to go around.