Summary of Testimony Regarding
Campaign Contributions and Pay-to-Play Ambassadorships
Pages 15-73 of the Testimony
This section of the testimony focuses solely on the legitimacy in the process that the Nixon Administration utilized in the nomination of Ambassadors. As a sort of case study of a pattern behavior, the questioning focuses on the nomination of Vincent deRoulet to the position of U.S. Ambassador to Jamaica. When asked if he recalls the appointment of deRoulet, Nixon fills the span of several pages of testimony describing in minute and repetitive details how he would prioritize ambassador positions. Surprising no one, Nixon ultimately comes to the conclusion that he does not specifically remember the appointment of deRoulet.
Nixon is also questioned on the manner in which his administration prioritized the appointment of Ambassadors according to country and regional stability. Nixon explains that ambassadorships to Western Europe and Vietnam were a top priority. The testimony also discusses Nixon’s policies of selecting ambassadors of ethnic or racial minorities to represent the United States in countries around the world. These ambassadors were often placed in areas from which they did not originate in order to bolster diversity and increase effective representation of the American people.
Significantly, Nixon stonewalls when asked if a contribution of $100,000 by Vincent deRoulet had anything to do with his appointment. Nixon responds to these questions by questioning the varying definitions of the word “commitment” when used to describe a political promise. Further pressed about his selection process, Nixon repeatedly makes the point that his process was no different than that of his predecessors. He also references situations in which possible candidates would make contributions to members of Congress who would then lobby for the donor’s nomination.
Nixon is then asked to continue his discussion of the role of the White House and the commitments in question to deRoulet and J. Fife Symington Jr. in exchange for their $100,000 contributions. More specifically, Nixon is asked if he recalls making a decision that deRoulet should be examined further with regard to his future as an ambassador. It was evident that deRoulet wanted a European post, which would be a marked promotion from his post as ambassador to Jamaica. Nixon is subsequently presented with information that indicates there was, in June of 1971, an exchange of memoranda between Haldeman and Flanigan in reference to deRoulet: “What can we do to honor Kalmbach’s pledge to move deRoulet up to a more important post,” and “obviously Spain is now out, but he had nine others on his list. Kambalch also has a commitment to move Symington and we are going to have to work that one out too, I guess.”
Crucially, these memoranda indicate deRoulet was promised a more prestigious ambassadorship in exchange for campaign contributions. Nixon is asked again if he was aware of Kalmbach’s pledge to move deRoulet, and Nixon responds that, to the best of his recollection, he cannot remember if the matter was brought to his attention, insisting that “sometimes it was brought to my attention, sometimes it was not. I don’t know whether this was or not. It could have been.” Nixon reaffirms the does not recall any conversation with Mr. Haldeman regarding Kalmbach’s commitment to deRoulet, also suggesting that despite his absence of memory, “one might have occurred.”
The next portion of the testimony focuses on a document dated August 9, 1971, and addressed to Nixon from Peter Flanigan. It reads: “Vincent deRoulet was assured in 1970 of a European post. I recommended he resign from Jamaica and be appointed ambassador to Finland,” and was marked with initials and the word “approved.” Nixon responds that the initials appeared to be his, but “I must have done it in a terrible hurry because usually my ‘N’ is legible.”
Nixon goes on to try to explain himself and his use of the word commitment. He says that the important thing is what it meant to him, not to Mr. Kalmbach and not to the individual in question. Nixon also states that he gave top consideration to major financial contributors because big contributors make better ambassadors, particularly where American economic interests are involved. In June of 1971, Haldeman requested Kalmbach’s pledge to deRoulet be honored, and, on August 9, 1971, Nixon nominated deRoulet to Finland. Following the introduction of this evidence, Nixon is asked once again if he knew of the understanding between Kalmbach and deRoulet at the time he approved his nomination. Nixon replies that he has no recollection of it being brought to his attention at that point in time.
The testimony then shifts its focus to a memorandum from Strachan to Haldeman, dated August 10, 1971, which states that the President decided deRoulet should be offered the position in Finland on the basis of a memorandum in which Flanigan states that it was “too bad” if deRoulet doesn’t want Finland, “that’s all he gets.” The third paragraph of the document reads that “Kalmbach is willing to act as either salesman for Finland or fall guy for not delivering on the commitment; he will do whatever you ask.” Nixon insists that he has no recollection of ever authorizing the selling of ambassadorships or the making of absolute commitments for ambassadorships, acknowledging that he did in fact give elevated consideration to those who made contributions. At this point in time, Mr. Ruth speaks up and reassures Nixon that the questions are not meant to be accusatory of the former President, but are merely an extension of an investigation of others’ involvement in bribery and other crimes. Nixon acknowledges this and insists that people knew that he “was tougher than any president in modern history, because of my interest in foreign policy, with regard to ambassadorial assignments.”
Unsurprisingly, Nixon once again returns to the discussion of interpreting the word ‘commitment.’ He says, “All it meant, when I see a thing like that, was that they had discussed it with him, that the people within the bureaucracy felt that—our people did—that he ought to be moved, that he deserved to be moved, so they put down the word “commitment.’” Nixon went on to discuss his presidential pardon, which he described as being terribly difficult to accept, indicating that his answers were not given for the purpose of defending himself on the record. He went on to say that “In my view I don’t believe—I’m not going to be in the position of saying to you that I considered that a sale of ambassadorships, even though it involves no danger, no vulnerability, as far as I am concerned.”
A final question surrounding deRoulet has to do with the fact that he was offered a refund of his hundred thousand dollar political contribution. After reviewing the documents, Nixon says that he was aware the offer was made to him, as well as Symington, but as far as he could remember deRoulet refused to take it back. At this point in time, the questioning moves from deRoulet to Symington. As they review the facts, it is said that Symington was offered the post of ambassador to Trinidad and Tobago in 1969, which he accepted and served throughout 1970 and 1971. The documents also suggest that there was a similar understanding between Kalmbach and Symington with regards to political contributions of $100,000. Nixon does not recall being specifically advised of any understanding that he would be appointed. It is brought up that performance evaluations of Symington by the State Dept. and General Haig suggested he was of marginal effectiveness and was in fact never approved for a European post. Flanigan and other respective members of the White House staff agreed with the assessment of Symington. Nixon replies, “A President has to make assessments, not simply n the basis of what the bureaucracy wants or then you would simply have the bureaucracy in every area becoming infestuous and feeding upon itself” (44).
Nixon does not recall any discussion with Haldeman or Flanigan about a commitment to Kalmbach or Symington and, on the topic of his contribution being returned to him, Nixon once again states that “if an individual felt he had been promised something I had not promised and would not deliver, his contribution could be returned, and the Symington one falls in that classification”(45). According to the testimony, Nixon felt that the only honorable thing to do was to return the contribution in these situations, stating that it was illegal to make a commitment or make a sale of an ambassadorship.
Throughout this discussion, Nixon appears a bit desperate to come across as ‘humanized’ by interspersing his testimony with what he thought were funny jokes. An example would be his claim that Joseph Kennedy’s appointment as Ambassador to Great Britain, “at least increased the scotch supply.” Jokes like these demonstrate Nixon’s continued, seething hatred of the Kennedy family. Unfortunately for Nixon, at no time does the stenographer record anyone in the room laughing.
For several more pages for testimony, then, the discussion concerning the trading of appointments for campaign contributions continues. Aside from deRoulet and Symington, Nixon is also asked about the appointment of Mrs. Farkas to Luxembourg. Once again, Nixon stressed that while the system of patronage–whereby a campaign contributor is awarded for their donation—had existed since long before Nixon’s presidency, he repeatedly told his staffers that no one was to be guaranteed any posting. Nixon, of course, categorically denies ever trading an appointment for a contribution.
The only time Nixon seems to have a crystal clear memory of this topic, even going as far as telling the prosecutor that he does not need the papers to remind himself, is the appointment of an ambassador to Spain. In this instance, a donor had given $250,000, but was rebuked for the position because Nixon felt he did not have the skills for such an important ally. Essentially, this situation serves as the one occasion in which Nixon did “the right thing” and did not make appointments according to contribution size.
As the discussion of ambassadorships wraps up, Nixon also comes perilously close to perjuring himself on several occasions, but is saved by his legalese language. In tapes released in 1997, Nixon is recorded saying $250,000 is the minimum contribution to be guaranteed an Ambassadorship. Recordings such as these are likely the reason for the repetitive use of “I do not recall” or “I have no recollection.”
Pages 136-166 of the Testimony
This portion of Nixon’s grand jury testimony contains no spectacular revelations. It primarily deals with the mechanics of receiving the Hughes contribution of $100,000 dollars, and begins with a question about whether Nixon recalled being informed that Bebe Rebozo still had the Hughes money at the close of the campaign.
The questions seek to pin Nixon on whether he knew about the Hughes money before being informed by Mr. Rebozo, and he completely stonewalls by throwing in a big speech about only being able to testify to the best of his recollection. By this he means to say that if he is caught telling a lie, he will merely blame it on his faulty memory.
Continuing on, the questioner refers to evidence that Mr. Rebozo told Nixon’s secretary, Ms. Woods, immediately after receiving the Hughes payments—before Nixon admits to having known about the money. Nixon claims that it was not his staff’s policy to inform him about payments received until after the elections were over.
A portion of Mr. Haldeman’s notes from August 20, 1970 are introduced. The notes reference a conversation with Nixon aboard Air Force One in which Haldeman had decided that he needed to tell Kalmbach to ask Hughes, Getty, and several other contributors for additional donations for the 1970 elections; and that he should tell Kalmbach to get Rebozo to help arrange meetings with the donors. Kalmbach was Nixon’s personal lawyer during this period, and he was used frequently to solicit contributions, and to arrange payouts to people who did jobs for the administration, including the Watergate burglars.
Nixon goes on to point out that at the time this conversation was taking place the Hughes $100,000 contribution had already been received. Nixon claims the fact that he was telling Haldeman to ask Hughes for money is proof that he did not have knowledge of the Hughes contribution yet. This line of questions leads to the most entertaining Nixonism in this section. In a further attempt to derail the substantive questions that are being asked, he questions whether Getty really contributed to the campaign. When informed that Getty did indeed contribute, Nixon says, “He’s a real tightwad.” The questioner tries to determine what actually happened with the Hughes money, and whether any of it went to Nixon’s brother or his secretary. Nixon denies these allegations vehemently, and states that he arranged meetings to judge whether the Hughes money could be used in the 1974 campaign.
The questioner also makes the mistake of bringing up the Washington Post, which allows Nixon to waste two pages of testimony rating against columnist Jack Anderson (who wrote many articles exposing corruption in the administration) and telling everyone in the room that they should never believe a word of what Mr. Anderson writes.
The questioning then moves on to the subject of the Andreas donation. According to Nixon, Andreas wanted to make a private and anonymous campaign donation, so he had a colleague, Mr. Lewis, contact Nixon to determine how this could be done. The contribution could not be given to the Finance Committee because Mr. Andreas did not want it to become known, as he was also supporting Humphrey; therefore, Nixon directed Mr. Lewis to deliver the contribution directly to Ms. Woods. Mr. Lewis did so, and Ms. Woods stored the money in a safe place. Since the money went unreported, Nixon could spend it at his own discretion; however, the money was never used. Nixon wanted to save the funds in case the campaign needed to counter a last minute blitz, but he won by a landslide and the money was not needed.
Nixon did not consider the money again until he and Haldeman were discussed raising the funds for Hunt’s attorney’s fees. Nixon believed he had an obligation to Hunt to explore his options, at which point he remembered the $100,000 from Mr. Andreas. Ultimately, Nixon directed Miss Woods to have the unused donation returned. Ms. Woods returned the funds to Mr. Lewis, who presumably gave the money to Mr. Andreas in June (Mr. Andreas did call Miss Woods, implying the money was received). Shortly after Mr. Andreas had donated the money to the campaign, he came under investigation for other campaign contributions. Nixon claims it was this investigation that motivated him to return the money because he did not want to cause further embarrassment for Mr.
At this point, the testimony shifted focus to the Hughes contribution and the corresponding IRS investigation of Bebe Rebezo. The IRS supposedly wanted to meet with Mr. Rebezo in order to determine if his receipt of the funds would affect his taxes. The IRS contacted the White House for authorization of an interview with Mr. Rebezo. At this time Howard Hughes was under investigation for other operations and the IRS needed to speak with Rebezo to determine if there was a connection. Nixon claimed to not recall discussing said information with anyone, in fact; he claimed to not remember if the IRS was trying to investigate Rebezo at all. According to the grand juror, Mr. Haig claimed that Nixon was well aware of the IRS request to meet with Rebezo and directed Ehrlichman to handle the situation. Nixon maintained that he did not recall any such events due to the nature of the times—he had been tied up with peace agreements and bombings in the Laotion area that incidents such as the IRS investigation were easily forgettable; therefore, it was difficult for him to recall. The authorization for a meeting between the IRS and Mr. Rebezo was ultimately given by Ehrlichman, and the meeting took place on May 10. Nixon continued to claim he did not recall anything nor did he discuss the incident with anyone in his administration.
 “Nixon Set Minimum Contribution for Choice Diplomatic Posts” http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/national/longterm/nixon/103097envoy.htm