Michele Bachmann's Aide Hides $10 Million Secret
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In the three decades since, some witnesses have claimed that Marcos put up the money to finance a covert Republican operation to contact Iranian officials behind Carter’s back and bribe them into delaying release of the hostages until after the November 1980 election. As it turned out, the hostages were held through the presidential election and were only released after Ronald Reagan was sworn in on Jan. 20, 1981.
Documentary evidence of a Marcos-to-Reagan payoff in 1980 first surfaced after Marcos was ousted by a popular revolution in March 1986.
As Marcos’s fall neared, Reagan arranged for the dictator to be flown to safety in Hawaii. After Marcos left the Philippines, his opponents ransacked government files and found a Feb. 17, 1986, letter signed by a senior Marcos aide, Victor Nituda.
In the letter, Nituda told Marcos that Reagan’s emissary, Sen. Paul Laxalt, R-Nevada, was demanding that sensitive files, including ones listing the 1980 transactions, be turned over before Marcos could go to Hawaii.
Nituda’s letter specifically cited accounts set up for Reagan and his 1980 campaign manager William J. Casey, who became Reagan’s CIA director in 1981. Laxalt had served as Reagan’s campaign chairman in 1980.
Laxalt “expects all documents checklisted during his last visit or the deal [for a Hawaiian exile] is off,” Nituda wrote. The first two documents listed were “1980-SEC-014: Funds to Casey” and “1980-SEC-015: Reagan Funds Not Used.”
In a follow-up letter three days later, Nituda added, “we urgently need to fly the last batch [of documents] to Clark [Air Force base] soonest. [National security adviser William] Clark and [Reagan chief of staff Michael] Deaver are not happy with what we’ve sent them so far.”
Nituda wrote that Laxalt wanted files from 1984, too, including papers on bank loans and Marcos’s “donations to Gen. [John] Singlaub” who then was raising secret funds for the Nicaraguan Contra rebels, including money from Marcos.
For years, Laxalt’s spokesmen have denied that the senator had any discussions with Marcos about the information referenced in the Nituda letter. In an interview in 1996, Deaver also told me that he had no idea what Nituda was writing about.
But there was evidence supporting the Nituda account. During his Hawaiian exile, Marcos said he gave Reagan $4 million in 1980 and $8 million in 1984, in an admission to Republican lawyer Richard Hirschfeld, who secretly tape-recorded the conversation.
Hirschfeld turned part of the tape over to Congress. But the core allegations – that President Reagan had received illegal pay-offs from a foreign dictator – were never seriously explored. Marcos died in exile in 1989.
Though making no reference to this history, the Rollins book added further corroboration that Marcos did make large payments to Reagan.
Rollins wrote that he asked Laxalt about the $10 million payment when the two men were alone at cabins they owned in Front Royal, Virginia.
“Paul absorbed the story with increasing interest,” Rollins wrote, then quoting Laxalt as declaring: “Christ, now it all makes sense. When I was over there cutting off Marcos’s nuts, he gave me a hard time. ‘How can you do this?’ he kept saying to me. ‘I gave Reagan ten million dollars. How can he do this to me?’ I didn’t know what the hell he was talking about. Now I get it.”
Though clearly self-serving and quite likely disingenuous, Laxalt’s comment confirmed that he and Marcos discussed the alleged payoffs to Reagan. That contradicted the earlier denials from Laxalt’s aides that the topic never arose.