NEW YORK -- In an attack on Republicans over the savings and loan crisis, New York Gov. Mario M. Cuomo denounced "wealthy bankers" who had "stolen or squandered everything in sight."
The remarks, made in his nominating speech Wednesday night for Gov. Bill Clinton of Arkansas, indicate that the banking and thrift industries' problems could become an issue in the 1992 elections.
The comments came when Gov. Cuomo, who did drew no distinction between banks and thrifts, was criticizing the administration for not spending more on social programs.
"Remember the savings and loans?" he asked. "Governors and mayors had gone to Washington ... to plead for help for education, for job training, for roads and bridges, for drug treatment" only to be rejected by President Bush.
"Then Americans discovered that wealthy bankers - educated in the most exquisite forms of conservative, Republican banking - through their incompetence, thievery, and the government's neglect had stolen or squandered everything in sight. The world's greatest bank robbery."
Gov. Cuomo said that then "the heavens opened and out of the blue billions of dollars appeared. Not for children. Not for jobs. Not for the ill. But hundreds of billions of dollars to bail out failed savings and loans."
Some prominent lawmakers had been urging Gov. Clinton to raise the S&L crisis as an issue. After listening to Gov. Cuomo's speech on the floor of the Democratic convention, Rep. Jim Slattery of Kansas agreed.
He asserted Presidents Bush and Reagan had "appointed every one of the regulators" and bear responsibility for the collapse of the thrift industry and the deeply rooted problems in the banking industry.
Rep. Slattery, a member of both the Banking and the Energy and Commerce committees, also suggested that the Democrats should not be cowed into silence because of the role members of their party played in the thrift industry's downfall.
"Republicans can talk about the Keating Five," he said, referring to the Democratic Senators who helped Charles Keating, the disgraced thrift owner who has become a symbol of the crisis. "But that doesn't excuse the responsibility of the executive branch for regulation."