The Washington Post

Firm that cleared Christie in Bridgegate? Same one Nixon mentioned in famous Checkers speech

It's a small world, and the political one is even smaller.

The political story that drove much of the week was the release of an internal report commissioned by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) that determined that the governor had no prior knowledge of the apparent political payback scheme to cause a traffic jam by closing close several lanes leading to the George Washington Bridge.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie listens to an audience members question at a town hall meeting, Thursday, March 13, 2014, at the YMCA of Burlington County, in Mount Laurel, N.J. Christie announced that the average property tax increase in New Jersey last year was a relatively modest 1.7 percent. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

That investigation outlined in the 360-page report was conducted by Gibson Dunn, a massive L.A.-based law firm that has represented everyone from Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg to major corporations including Walmart and Apple.

But, in political circles, the firm may be best known as the one that conducted a 1952 probe into whether vice presidential candidate Richard Nixon unethically accepted gifts and financial contributions while campaigning -- a scandal that almost forced the then-senator to resign from the GOP ticket.

With the scandal swirling, GOP presidential candidate Dwight Eisenhower ordered an independent investigation -- conducted by Gibson Dunn -- which ultimately concluded that Nixon had not behaved improperly.

Armed with that conclusion, Nixon traveled to Los Angeles and delivered his now-famous "Checkers speech," a 30-minute televised addressed in which he declared he had done nothing wrong, praised the Gibson Dunn law firm as "one of the best ones in Los Angeles," and asked Americans to write letters to the RNC and voice their support for his candidacy.

The rest is history: The Eisenhower-Nixon ticket went on win the White House, Nixonwas later elected to the presidency (before, you know...). and Gibson Dunn includes the Checkers speech name check among the "fun facts" listed on its Web site.

Wesley Lowery is a national reporter covering law enforcement and justice for the Washington Post. He previously covered Congress and national politics.



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