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Delay Files Suit with Rules Committee

The Austin Chronicle has a nice run down of some of Tom Delay's recent hits. It details a memo filed by Tom Delay's lawyer, Ed Bethune, with the House Rules Committee, which calls "for [retiring Congressman Chris] Bell [D-Houston] and CREW [Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington] to be cited for 'contempt of Congress' or otherwise sanctioned for violating the prohibition against outside assistance to House members for official business. Bethune is speaking for Tom DeLay, rightfully notorious for eliminating the middlemen and inviting the business lobby directly into his congressional office to draft their own legislation. To paraphrase Ronnie Earle, being called contemptible by Tom DeLay is like being called a thug by Tony Soprano."

It makes sense to have Bethune representing Delay:

Ed Bethune's golden parachute. [Arkansas Times 1/31/97]

By Michael Haddigan
January 31, 1997

(With the start of President Clinton's second term, the Times begins a new feature to track new developments, ephemera and sundry notes from the wide-ranging Whitewater investigations.)

All's quiet on the Whitewater front, at least as long as the Inaugural interval lasts. Presumably, independent counsel Kenneth Starr has continued debriefing former Madison Guaranty Savings and Loan owner Jim McDougal about the thrift's operation in the 1980s and about any and all Clinton connections.

And Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich's ethics violations have actually overshadowed Whitewater in recent weeks. Former Arkansas Congressman Ed Bethune, who helped draft Gingrich's ethics defense, had his own brief -- and largely forgotten role -- in the S&L mess that ensnared McDougal. Bethune, a former FBI agent, is now practicing law in Washington and had represented Gingrich previously.

Bethune was president of Little Rock's First Federal Savings and Loan for a few months before it went under in June 1989 at a cost to taxpayers that dwarfed the cost of closing Madison.

The tab for First Federal was a whopping $833 million. Madison's was $73 million, according to the federal Resolution Trust Corporation.

Bethune failed to return calls to his Washington, D.C., law office, but press reports fill in the blanks.

In fall1986, Bethune joined First Federal's board. He then became president and CEO of the thrift in January 1987. At the time, First Federal was the largest S&L in Arkansas with total assets of about $1.7 billion. Bethune was also the Arkansas Republican chairman.

But First Federal was suffering from the same problem affecting other Arkansas thrifts _ loans for office buildings and apartment complexes with high vacancy rates went bust. Reappraisals required by federal regulators dropped the values of the projects well below what First Federal had paid for them in the first place.

By August 1987, First Federal was $22.1 million in the hole.

In September, eight months after he signed on, Bethune announced his resignation.

The savings and loan ended the fiscal year $83.9 million in the red. But Bethune departed the soon-to-fail institution with a golden parachute. After his resignation, he received $368,000, including severance pay totaling $259,000 and $109,000 of his $200,000 annual salary. Bethune moved to Washington in January 1988, giving up the state Republican chair.

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. took over the S&L in February 1989, as part of President Bush's overall savings and loan rescue plan. First Federal closed its last fiscal year in June 1989 in the hole for $471.2 million.

On September 1, 1989, federal regulators took over the thrift entirely, renaming it First Savings of Arkansas. The lack of investigative interest in affairs at First Federal became a side issuein the Whitewater probe. The Resolution Trust Corporation spent only13 hours investigating First Federal. By contrast, the RTC, then under a Republican administration, spent a total of 5,661 hours probing Madison, which closed at a fraction of the cost of First Federal.

There is no indication of wrongdoing by Bethune himself, but FBI agents believed there were matters worth investigating at the institution.

An October 1992 FBI memo identified First Savings and Savers Savings Association as cases having "significant criminal potential.

"It is requested that (FBI Headquarters) contact RTC and request it expeditiously address providing referrals on Savers and First (Savings of Arkansas,) neither of which can have been the subject of investigation or indictments and which are believed to have much greater prosecutive potential than Madison Guaranty Savings and Loan," the memo said. Nothing public ever came of the suggestion.


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