During their Watergate investigation, federal agents established that hundreds of thousands of dollars in Nixon campaign contributions had been set aside to pay for an extensive undercover campaign aimed at discrediting individual Democratic presidential candidates and disrupting their campaigns.
“Intelligence work” is normal during a campaign and is said to be carried out by both political parties. But federal investigators said what they uncovered being done by the Nixon forces is unprecedented in scope and intensity.
They said it included:
Following members of Democratic candidates’ families and assembling dossiers on their personal lives; forging letters and distributing them under the candidates’ letterheads; leaking false and manufactured items to the press; throwing campaign schedules into disarray; seizing confidential campaign files; and investigating the lives of dozens of Democratic campaign workers.
In addition, investigators said the activities included planting provocateurs in the ranks of organizations expected to demonstrate at the Republican and Democratic conventions; and investigating potential donors to the Nixon campaign before their contributions were solicited.
Informed of the general contents of this article, The White House referred all comment to The Committee for the Re-election of the President. A spokesman there said, “The Post story is not only fiction but a collection of absurdities.” Asked to discuss the specific points raised in the story, the spokesman, DeVan L. Shumway, refused on grounds that “the entire matter is in the hands of the authorities.”
Law enforcement sources said that probably the best example of the sabotage was the fabrication by a White House aide -- of a celebrated letter to the editor alleging that Sen. Edmund S. Muskie (D-Maine) condoned a racial slur on Americans of French-Canadian descent as “Canucks.”
The letter was published in the Manchester Union Leader Feb 24, less than two weeks before the New Hampshire primary. It in part triggered Muskie’s politically damaging “crying speech” in front of the newspaper’s office.
Washington Post staff writer Marilyn Berger reported that Ken W. Clawson, deputy director of White House communications, told her in a conversation on September 25th that, “I wrote the letter.”
Interviewed again yesterday, Clawson denied that he had claimed authorship of the “Canuck” letter, saying the reporter must have misunderstood him. “I know nothing about it,” Clawson said.
William Loeb, publisher of the Manchester paper, said yesterday that although the person who signed the letter -- a Paul Morrison of Deerfield Beach, Fla. -- has never been located, “I am convinced that it is authentic.”