Richard M. Nixon: Politician, President, Administrator

By Leon Friedman; William F. Levantrosser | Go to book overview

Discussant: David M. Dorsen

I will primarily be addressing Joel Gora's paper, as you can tell from my resume and accent. I first would like to make the point that $300 million sounds like a lot of money, but it is just over a dollar per person, and I am not sure that we want to rush with our hands wringing and say $300 million is too much to spend collectively on the elections in the United States. I think mentioning large numbers can cause panic, and it may not be in everybody's interest to cut these substantially.

Another point that I would like to make, and I am going to be somewhat disjointed because I just want to touch some highlights, is that Professor Gora in an excellent paper said the Supreme Court's decision was balanced when it struck down some provisions and left others standing. This may be a case where half a loaf may be worse than none because I can be sympathetic with the American Civil Liberties Union's (ACLU's) position that there should be disclosure and that should be the focus. I could be sympathetic with another position that would regulate things, but do so evenhandedly. Right now, you have con­F tribution limits, but not expenditure limits. PACs and other organizations can exercise and do control very large sums. However, an individual can only contribute $1,000.

I think there is something to be said for the fact that the 1971 law, which was essentially a disclosure law, was not given a fair chance. Herbert Kalmbach, Nixon's personal attorney and fundraiser, raised $8.8 million before the new law went into effect and approximately $1.8 million after the effective cutoff date of campaign disclosure after which disclosure was mandatory. That was two-and-a-half months before the Watergate break-in.

Our investigation on the Watergate Committee disclosed that there was surely the perception of great pressure to give very substantial sums of money-- hundreds of thousands of dollars. Many witnesses came forward and said they were told that if you wanted to be recognized or wanted to be on our top list, give $50,000 or $100,000. This possibly led some of the people to get their corporations to give, with the result that illegalities were committed, and the routine penalty was a fine to the corporation. Of course, what happened was that when the corporation paid a fine, the shareholders were the ones that paid, and the government also paid part of it.

One part of our investigation (incidentally, this is in our final report), which got relatively very little attention, was the Responsiveness Program. It dealt with minorities, grants, and fund-raising efforts in that community. While one may tend to think of campaign financing violations through corporate contributions and solicitation as an essentially victimless crime (when it was a crime), this was not really the case with solicitations from minorities.

I will read a couple of sentences from one memorandum that came from the

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