The Ghosts of Tricky Dick
Call it the Nixon legacy. The three frontrunners for the Republican nomination for president of the United States have direct links to the Richard M. Nixon administration.While revisionist historians and Hollywood portray the late President as a tortured statesman possessing unparalleled political acumen, Nixon's impact on the 1996 presidential race reflects his darker side. The president who dishonored the Constitution with his anti-Semitism, illegal bombings, secrecy, campaign-finance violations and dirty tricks lives on in Pat Buchanan, Bob Dole and Lamar Alexander. The bruising Republican primary campaign has been whittled down to a choice between the senator representing Archer-Daniels-Midland, the commentator representing the Aryan Nation, and the Southern ex-governor who turned dollars into millions on business deals made possible by his position of power. (Sound familiar?)Dole -- who may yet be tabbed the "Comeback Geezer" should he win the nomination -- was the chairman of the Republican National Committee at the time of the Watergate break-in. He was a ferocious Nixon ally during his first term in the Senate (1969-1974). He became Nixon's protege and confidante, and even gave the eulogy at Nixon's funeral. Despite heeding the advice of his mentor -- before his death Nixon counseled Dole to run as a right-winger in the primaries, then move quickly to the center once he got the nomination -- Dole has fallen from front-runner status. Should the Senate majority leader somehow re-emerge from the pack, here's what could hurt him in the months to come:* The Comprehensive Regulatory Reform Act of 1995. Bob Dole championed this piece of legislation as a government-shrinking, common-sense money saver. Congressional Quarterly, however, saw the measure as providing "plenty of opportunity to enrich Dole's campaign coffers. For businesses and lobbyists seeking a regulatory rollback, the bill offers a means to... get their wishes turned into law."And CQ has history to back it up.Take the case of Koch Industries -- a $263,000 contributor to Dole campaigns. The Wichita, Kansas-based oil company faced an estimated $54 million civil lawsuit filed by the federal government -- one of the largest cases ever filed under the Clean Water Act. According to the government, Koch Industries had spilled more than 2.3 million gallons of oil in more than 300 incidents in six states since 1990. As reported by the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Public Integrity (CPI), a clause in the regulatory reform act would have given Koch the legal ammunition to attempt to reduce its liability. The clause caused a senior attorney at the Natural Resources Defense Council to wonder 'who is trying to get their lawsuit fixed.'"Similarly, Dole's connection to Archer-Daniels-Midland Corp. and its chairman, Dwayne Andreas, is legendary. According to Federal Elections Commission records, between 1980 and 1990, Andreas, his family and ADM's PAC contributed more than $80,000 to Dole's campaigns and, through the years, an estimated $2.7 million to Republican candidates and to the Republican Party. The ADM Foundation has also contributed $185,000 to the Dole Foundation..ADM has benefited from having a friend in high places. The company is by far the nation's largest producer of ethanol, a corn-distilled alcohol which, mixed with gasoline, makes gasohol. Dole has managed to preserve gasohol tax credits that were scheduled to expire in 1992. He has also supported tariffs on imported Brazilian grain alcohol and has sponsored more than 50 Senate bills to promote gasohol and sugar prices, beefing up profits for ADM's high-fructose corn syrup production. * Touches of financial scandals have haunted Dole over the years. Most involved an investment banker named David Owen. Owen is a former Dole fund-raiser who served time for tax fraud. For example, according to a Jan. 29 story in The Nation, the Federal Elections Commission filed a complaint against Elizabeth Dole for "lending $50,000 to her husband's  presidential campaign." The loan came from money borrowed at a below-prime interest rate from a bank run by Owen. The transaction was handled by Dole's personal political action committee and a Senate staffer -- an apparent violation of election laws. Nonetheless, the FEC took no action, due to "the unique nature of Kansas law at the time of the transaction."There were also a story in 1988 of $24,000 in illegal campaign contributions to Dole's 1986 Senate bid from a company called Birdview Satellite Communications. Employees were ordered to contribute to Dole's campaign. One was even reimbursed for his contribution -- a direct violation of law. Dole denied knowledge of the fund-raiser, though FEC documents confirm "that Dole was at one of two private fund-raisers at Kansas in which money was illegally funneled to his 1986 campaign," according to The Nation report.Owen, ultimately, was fined $13,000 in civil penalties for transferring illegal donations not to Dole, but to the National Republican Senatorial Committee. He also served seven months in prison on a tax fraud charge related to his fund-raising activities for the re-election campaign of Kansas Gov. Michael Hayden-a campaign that Owen says Dole insisted he work for.The ghost of Nixon rises in the campaigns of Lamar Alexander and Pat Buchanan as well.Alexander is running as an outsider despite having spent the bulk of his political life in Washington, first as a lobbyist with Howard Baker's law firm, and then as an assistant in Nixon's Office of Congressional Relations. Ultimately, he served as Secretary of Education in the Bush administration.Alexander's government service has done him well. As with Nixon -- and the current occupant of the White House -- political sponsors have helped put together business deals that made him a millionaire.For example, in 1981, according to CPI's book The Buying of the President, when Alexander was governor of Tennessee and Howard Baker was Senate majority leader, they paid $1 each for options to buy the Knoxville Journal for $15 million. They decided not to buy the paper, but instead searched for someone else to purchase it. "Gannett newspapers eventually agreed to pay $15 million for 94.8 percent of the newspaper's stock," according to a recent CPI report. "Alexander walked away with Gannett newspaper options and stock worth $620,000."Pat Buchanan, too, has profited handsomely from his experience in the Nixon and Reagan White House, as a highly paid TV commentator and on the lecture circuit. And the next time Buchanan claims that racist flyers distributed by his supporters were actually planted by his rivals as a campaign dirty trick, remember: Buchanan knows campaign dirty tricks.In the 1972 Republican primary, Nixon was being challenged by an anti-war moderate named Pete McCloskey. Buchanan drafted a memo to White House Chief of Staff H.R. Haldeman and Attorney General John Mitchell about how to defuse the McCloskey challenge."Perhaps the Gay Liberation and/or Black Panthers and/or Students for a Democratic Society at Dartmouth could be prevailed upon to contribute a grand or so to the McCloskey campaign," Buchanan wrote in a Dec. 15, 1971, memo. "And when the check was cashed that fact brought to the attention of the voters of New Hampshire." "That was proposal No. 6 in the 16-step anti-McCloskey memo for New Hampshire," according to an Associated Press report. "The mission, Buchanan wrote, was to 'paint McCloskey as a Democratic tool, and destroy his credibility as a legitimate Republican.'"