Sen. Alan Cranston of California, who ended a 24-year U.S. Senate career in 1993 under the cloud of the savings and loan industry scandal, has died. He was 86.
Cranston died at his home in the Los Altos hills around 11:30 a.m. today, according to his daughter in law, Colette Cranston. His son, Kim, found him slumped over a sink, she said, and paramedics were not able to revive him.
She said the cause of death was not immediately known. She said over the past year Cranston had spells when he found it difficult to maintain his balance and that recently he has been taking antibiotics.
Campaigned For Nuke Control
After his retirement from the Senate, Cranston, who had been a Democratic contender for president in 1984, largely dropped out of public view. But he continued to champion the cause of nuclear arms control which had been the centerpiece of his political career for five decades.
In 1996, he became chairman of the Gorbachev Foundation USA, a San Francisco-based think tank founded by former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev to promote world peace and nuclear disarmament.
“Sen. Cranston’s life-long dedication to peace in the world and nuclear arms reduction have been inspirational to me,” said Sen. Barbara Boxer, who took over Cranston’s seat in 1992. “My heart goes out to his family.”
Withdrew Amid Scandal
Cranston’s announcement in 1990 that he would not seek a fifth Senate term cited only his recent diagnosis of prostate cancer.
But his public approval rating among California voters at that time had plunged to a record low due to the savings and loan scandal and Cranston’s relationship with Lincoln Savings & Loan President Charles Keating, who had just been indicted on securities fraud charges which would send Keating to prison for nearly five years until his convictions were overturned.
A later Senate Ethics Committee investigation would lead to formal reprimand of Cranston and lesser sanctions against four other senators, known with Cranston as “the Keating Five,” for intervening with federal regulators on behalf of Keating.
Cranston, who received nearly $1.2 million in political funds from Keating, initially insisted that he had been “politically stupid” but ethically correct to intervene with federal agencies on Keating’s behalf.
Ultimately, Cranston agreed to a finding that he had “engaged in an impermissible pattern of conduct in which fund raising and official activities were substantially linked in connection with Mr. Keating and Lincoln.”
But while Cranston accepted the verdict of improper conduct, he remained defiant up to his final response to the reprimand on the Senate floor in 1991, declaring that his actions “were not fundamentally different from the actions of many other senators.”
Those remarks left a cloud over the relations between the former majority whip and No. 2 Senate Democrat with colleagues who complained that Cranston had smeared every member of the Senate with his grudging acceptance of the reprimand.
While Cranston later reported full recovery from the cancer he cited in his decision not to seek re-election in 1992, his reputation as a lifelong champion of liberal activism and progressive reform never recovered from the savings and loan scandal.
Cranston remained unapologetic about the Keating affair after he left Senate.