Ariz. governor calls Sen. DeConcini helpful 'young man' at ethics hearing


WASHINGTON -- Looking for a character witness to support him at Senate Ethics Committee hearings, Sen. Dennis DeConcini of Arizona called yesterday on his state's governor, Rose Mofford, who proved more than willing to help her "young" colleague.

Governor Mofford, the 68-year-old leader of Arizona's Democrats, told the Senate Ethics Committee that she had known Mr. DeConcini since he was a 10-year-old altar boy at St. Gregory's Roman Catholic Church in Phoenix. And, Governor Mofford said, Mr. DeConcini is still a helpful "young man."

"Dennis is there to help anyone, without regard to race, color or creed," Governor Mofford testified at the committee's "Keating Five" hearings.

Mr. DeConcini, 53 years old, is a three-term senator.

Governor Mofford actually had nice things to say about the entire Arizona delegation, past and present, including Sen. John McCain, another of the so-called Keating Five, and former Sen. Barry Goldwater, both Republicans. But with Senator DeConcini under heavy fire for helping now-indicted financier Charles Keating, Governor Mofford came to Washington to help out an old friend and fellow Democrat.

In her testimony, she told the committee that SenatorDeConcini tries to help any constituent who contacts him about a problem -- clearly an effort designed to counteract the suspicion that Mr. Keating only got the senator's help because he was a rich businessman who gave $48,000 to Mr. DeConcini's campaign.

Governor Mofford told how Senator DeConcini secured 31,000 pounds of food to help a tribe of Arizona Indians survive a bitter cold snap in 1988.

"It is something that I shall never forget," she said.

After her testimony, Governor Mofford told reporters she'd be willing to be a character witness for Senator McCain, too. He may not need the help. Throughout the hearings, he has been portrayed as the least-involved of the Keating Five senators, while Senator DeConcini has been portrayed as the most involved.

Governor Mofford even had good things to say about Mr. Keating, who she said once had a reputation in Arizona as a successful businessman and large charitable giver. Afterward, she was asked whether she still thought so.

"Well, I have no reason to change my opinion of him," Governor Mofford replied, adding that "Charles Keating has never done anything that has affected me personally."

The failure of Mr. Keating's Lincoln Savings is expected to cost taxpayers $2.3 billion.

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