While the savings and loan crisis festered in the 1980s, Utah's two senators were among the members of Congress receiving the most campaign money from S&L interests.
That's according to a new study of Federal Election Commission reports by the watchdog group Common Cause.It says Sen. Jake Garn, R-Utah, former chairman and now ranking Republican on the Senate Banking Committee, received $77,600 during the 1980s from S&L officers and political action committees - the ninth most of any senator.
It adds that Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, also received $21,450 from S&L interests - ranking him 45th among senators.
Common Cause President Fred Wertheimer said, "S&L interests provided millions of dollars in campaign contributions to members of Congress throughout the 1980s. This contributed to the worst financial scandal in American history.
"Yet members of Congress have done nothing to change the corrupt campaign finance system that allowed it to happen. Just what does it take for members of Congress to clean up their own disastrous money scandal?" he said.
While critics have sought to put much of the S&L crisis blame on Garn because of his high position on the banking committee, Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. William Seidman recently said Garn was one of the few heroes in the crisis who sounded an early warning cry.
Congressional records also show that Garn warned early on of the need to recapitalize S&L insurance funds to prevent a crisis and that he unsuccessfully attacked many of the policies that contributed to the S&L problems.
Also, four of 12 other banking committee members that received S&L money received more than Garn - even though he was its chairman from 1981 to 1987.
Hatch has no committee assignments that deal directly with S&L problems, although like all senators he votes on S&L legislation.
Garn and Hatch have long said that campaign contributions do not "buy" or sway their votes. But Common Cause claims it does buy access to members of Congress for special interests.
The Common Cause study says S&L interests donated $11.7 million in campaign contributions to congressional candidates and political party committees in the 1980s when S&Ls engaged in activities that led to the estimated $300 billion scandal.