Former Phoenix journalist who investigated Keating Five scandal challenging McCain as Democrat

By Jonathan J. Cooper, AP
Friday, May 14, 2010

Former Phoenix journalist running against McCain

PHOENIX — A journalist whose reporting in the late 1980s helped put a spotlight on John McCain’s role in the Keating Five savings and loan scandal is now hoping to take the Arizona senator’s seat.

John Dougherty is one of seven Democrats competing to run against McCain. His reporting into McCain’s relationship with disgraced financier Charles Keating shed light on what McCain has called the worst mistake of his life.

A political upstart, Dougherty is a longshot. But his presence could renew scrutiny of the Keating scandal for McCain, who is facing a GOP primary challenge from former congressman J.D. Hayworth.

Dougherty said Friday McCain and others in Congress should have learned from the savings and loan collapse and enacted tougher regulations that could have prevented Wall Street’s collapse.

“I cover these issues and I see them coming back again and again,” said Dougherty, who was a reporter for more than a decade for the alternative weekly Phoenix New Times.

Just months into his Senate career, McCain participated in two 1987 meetings with banking regulators on behalf of Keating, a friend, campaign contributor and constituent who was later convicted of securities fraud.

As the savings and loan industry collapsed, McCain was tagged as one of the Keating Five — five senators who, to varying degrees, were accused of trying to get regulators to ease up on Keating. The Senate Ethics Committee in 1991 faulted McCain’s “poor judgment,” saving harsher criticism for the other four senators.

To have his honor questioned, McCain said, was in some ways worse than the torture he endured in Vietnam.

McCain spokesman Brian Rogers said Friday the campaign isn’t concerned that Dougherty’s presence in the race will increase attention on the Keating scandal.

“Sen. McCain’s been re-elected time and again because he’s earned the voters’ trust,” Rogers said.

McCain overcame the stain of the Keating scandal to win re-election three times, along with the Republican nomination for president in 2008.

Other Democrats hoping to challenge McCain include: Former Tucson City Councilman Rodney Glassman, former state Rep. Cathy Eden and political organizer Randy Parraz.

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