Ex-Rhode Island congressman Fernand St Germain, who helped deregulate savings and loan, dies at 86

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PROVIDENCE, R.I. - A man who represented Rhode Island in Congress for 28 years and co-sponsored a 1982 bill that deregulated savings and loans has died. Fernand St Germain was 86.

The congressman died Saturday at his home in Newport, according to his daughter, Lisette Saint Germain. She said he suffered from kidney failure.

St Germain, a Democrat, rose to chair the House Banking Committee. The deregulation bill aimed to provide a long-term solution for troubled thrift institutions, but it contributed to the 1980s savings and loan crisis by allowing institutions to expand their lending activities away from home mortgages into more risky commercial ventures. The crisis left U.S. taxpayers on the hook for billions of dollars.

St Germain used his clout to shower the district with federal projects. One of his legacies is the housing for the elderly and disabled that can be seen throughout the district. He was proud of the mortgage reforms he introduced, including one that ensured married women could get a mortgage without a husband's signature, his daughter said.

Former Rep. Barney Frank said St Germain was a "very effective legislator." The two men worked together to prevent cutbacks to rental housing for low-income families and to protect constituents when credit unions were failing in the late 1980s.

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St Germain was first elected in 1960. He lost his bid for re-election in 1988 to a political newcomer, Republican Ronald Machtley, while battling questions about unethical behavior.

That defeat was a tremendous blow because he was passionate about his work, Saint Germain said. Years later, she said, he still terribly missed public service.

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