On a balmy night in June, the mighty in the Arab diplomatic community mingled at a plush seated dinner at the Pisces Club to honor compatriot Richard C. Shadyac. Toasting Shadyac were Saudi Arabian Ambassador and Mrs. Faisal Alhegelan, Lebanese Ambassador Khalil Itani, Arab League Ambassador and Mrs. Clovis Maksoud, and Ali Al-Sabah of the Kuwait Embassy.
The party, the invitations read, was to celebrate Shadyac's appointment to head an Arab-American committee to reelect Carter/Mondale. The dinner was thrown by Shadyac's business associate Helen Haje. "Never before have U.S. citizens of Arab descent received such political recognition as a minority group," wrote one guest, society writer Betty Beale.
Shadyac, 50 -- son of an immigrant Lebanese father and Irish mother; wealthy Washington lawyer, prominent fund-raiser; foreign agent for Libya -- had arrived in Jimmy Carter's Washinton. Or had he?
"I will not be a fall guy for anybody," fumed a livid Shadyac one month later. A lot had happened since Pisces. The papers blared out Billy Carter's Libyan connection.
And Shadyac's. Headlines screamed: "Libya Agent Linked to Carter Panel." Shadyac had long been registered as an agent for Libya; he receives a $50,000 a year retainer as chairman of the Libyan-funded ($310,362.65 worth to date) Arab-American Dialogue Committee.
The record had been there to examine, but no one cared about Shadyac before. Now pro-Israel factions and anti-Libyan groups were protesting Shadyac's apparent role in the Carter campaign. One newspaper account, in James Bondian fashion, stated that Billy Carter and Shadyac "reported to the same man in Libya, Ahmed Shahati, the head of Libya's Foreign Liaison office."
Suddenly, Carter/Mondale campaign committee chairman Robert Strauss was telling the press he had never met Shadyac; that Shadyack was not associated with the committee. But later Strauss said that a member of the Carter/Mondale committee -- acting without authorization -- had approached Shadyac. The lawyer ripped open a letter Wednesday from Strauss. "Neither I, nor our management committee has authorized in any way the creation of an Arab/American committee . . . I sincerely regret this unfortunate confusion."
"There was absolutely no confusion," said Shadyac. "They contracted me last April. Sought me out! A few days ago Strauss made statements that are totally untrue. Since that time it has been an amazing, unbelievable charade."
But such are the life and hard times of a foreign agent in Washington -- especially in an election year when two incendiary elements come in to play, the president's bumbling brother Billy and the world's arch supporter of terrorist regimes, Muammar Qaddafi.
He moves through Washington in his Lincoln Town car with its velvety red interior. "Richard C. Shadyac" is engraved on the dashboard. On to lunch at the International Club, a plush, hushed world, armed with a briefcase filled with memos, notes, letters, hastily scrawled remembrances of phone calls; marshalling the evidence for his contention that he was appointed by Carter/Mondale. Shadyac is a study in financial success. All that glitters is gold -- cufflinks the size of quarters, gold and diamond ring, gold bracelet, gold watch. A pearl and diamond stick pin adorns a blue polka-dot tie. A matching handerchief flows from the breast pocket of his natty three-piece, sharply creased navy-blue suit. There are gray streaks in his hair, a tan on the face, acquired poolside. The law business has been lucrative. "God has been good to me," says Shadyac, but he is not happy.
Some of his old friends in the Arab political community are avoiding him. Some others refuse to speak of him for attribution. Rep. Toby Moffett (D-Conn.), whom Shadyac has aided for many years, just returned a $1,000 campaign contribution he had received a couple of months ago. Shadyac had made a full disclosure of his personal campaign contributions -- but newspaper reports erroneously stated they had come, not from Shadyac personally, but from the Libyans and the Dialogue Committee. "Of course I'd have been in jail if they had been," said Moffett sardonically. The retractions were printed. "It was all perfectly legal -- but I have a policy. Any cloud that comes over a campaign contribution, I return it. I didn't know about the Libyan agent thing," says Moffett, whose parents are Lebanese.
Shadyac sighs, "He did too. Toby is a beautiful, but very ambitious young man." Have people been ducking him of late? "Oh, yeah, everyone cuts and runs for themselves." Standard Washinton behavior when trouble hints.
Qaddafi, says Shadyac, is greatly misunderstood." He looks pained as he sips his vodka tonic and defends the Libyan strongman. "I judge a leader based on what he does for his people. Look what he's done in terms of economic improvement. There's free education, free health, free housing. Nobody who does these things is all bad." Qaddafi's support of international terroism, Shadyac says, amounts to "unfounded allegations." Libya is one of Shadyac's clients, as are the Syrian and Kuwaiti governments. So were the four young Libyans who barricaded themselves inside their country's mission when they were ordered expelled for alleged intimidation of Quaddaif's opponents. "The State Department never gave us one iota of evidence," syas Shadyac.
The State Department does, however, have a long list of incidents linking Libya to terroist groups -- beginning with giving refuge to the perpetrators of the Munich Olympics massacre in 1972, although Libya now condemns hijacking. Libya also aided former Ugandan dictator Idi Amin. "I know he supported Amin, but Qaddafi's got a right to his own domestic and international policy," says Shadyac. "Who the hell are we to tell others what they ought to be doing?"
When it comes to the subject of morality, and its role in international power plays and necessities, Shadyac shrugs. "Who's gonna define that term?"
If he had been an agent for Israel would the reaction be different? "Oh, certainly," Shadyac says, with digust. "The double standard of our diplomacy shocks me. How we single Libya out as the worst when we're in bed with Vietnam, who just a few years ago were killing Americans. We're in bed with Red China and Russia. The Pakistanis burn the hell out of our embassy and all of a sudden, because of the Afghanistan situation, we can't go over there fast enough and give them aid. The difficulties between Col. Qaddafi and Sadat zaps our relationship with Libya. We're in bed with Sadat.
"Look, Libya is a very important country," he says. "We get about 12 to 13 percent [of America's oil supplies] from them; they're our third-biggest supplier."
Don't misunderstand, he hastens to add. "I violently condemn the Munich kind of thing or the PLO setting off a bomb or Israelis bombing the hell out of southern Lebanon." But that doesn't stop him from getting along with Qaddafi? "Not a bit." And PLO leader Arafat, he says, is a "relatively moderate leader. I'm amazed he has survived."
Shadayc speaks often of his "good friends." But many of them respond vaguely when asked about these friendships. "I have met Shadyac at Lebanese or community functions," says one.
One good friend is Billy Carter, whom Shadyac says he has no business deaings with. "Such a simple, beautiful, basic person. The vultures are cutting him to pieces. Zbigniew using him on the hostages was stupid. There are others with more influence. When that happened, I immediately cabled Qaddafi and Shahati to use their influence."
His eyes light up as he speaks of Qaddafi. He tells of the time in 1978 when Shadyac had brought 100 Americans to Tripoli for an "Arab-American Dialogue," which was really a Libyan-American dialogue, bankrolled by Libya (one estimate was as high as $500,000). The Libyans were busily celebrating "Revenge Day" -- the day they had thrown out all the Italians. Shadyac addressed the assembly, telling them, "You don't resolve differences by killing." He and former senator William Fullbright defended the Camp David accords to the Libyans, who are vehemently anti-Israel. Qaddafi, wrote one observer, was "completely uncompromising" in his speech: "Americans were making aggression against 'us.'"
At the parade, said Shadyac, "We VIP visitors were right up there beside Qaddafi. He was in full military regalia. Then, at the dialogue, he came in unannounced, sat in the back, dressed in the latest French fashion, scarf at the neck. Talk about your sharp political leader. The image."
Two prominent Arab Americans are cooly assessing Shadyac. The adjectives are repeated by others. "Impulsive, intense, very ambitious, very aggressive, dedicated." Said one, "He's done a helluva lot of good work, worked like hell on St. Jude's" (the Danny Thomas-founded hospital for leukemia patients in Memphis). The flip side according to one: "Shadyac's a guy who has played the ethnic angle for all it's worth." Some are suspicious of what they see as a blind commitment to politicians of Arab descent, regardless of ideology. "It doesn't worry him at all to work his heart out for a Jim Abourezk [the former liberal Democratic senator] and then turn around and support Jim Abdnor [a far right conservative.]
"Dick likes attention. In order to get attention he has gotten very heavily involved in establishing organizations at the drop of a hat," the man continues. "He's very enthusiastic, brings people in and then all of a sudden he's having policy differences and he goes off sulking".
His father was simply Joe Charley. Ellis Island officials couldn't cope with Shadyac. His three sons reinstated the family name. "My father came here at age 11 as a peddler." His mother's family came from County Cork, Ireland. They met in Vermont. Shadyac, a Catholic, refers to himself as a "prominent" Catholic Maronite. As a boy he wanted to be either a priest or a lawyer. His father by that time owned a grocery store and "knew everybody in Vermont." Shadyac went to St. Michale's College and Boston University school of law, starred in basketball, went into the Army, then worked in the Justice Department antitrust division. Shadyac explains how he got that job. "Senator Aiken was a good friend of my father. I'm sure he made a few phone calls."
Twenty-two years ago, when Shadyac moved into private practice in Virginia, he recalls, "I didn't know a soul. I knew I had to get known." Then he started his ceasless moves as a joiner -- the Kiwanis Club, the Democratic Party. "It was in shambles then." Shadyac began running campaigns, began picking up profitable clients, wheeling and dealing. He pulls out a long resume. ("I don't normally do this, I just wanted to show you I'm no johnny-come-lately.") He is past president of almost everything -- Arlington County Bar associate, Northern Virginia Lawyers Association of Maronites, on the board of banks and St. Jude's Hospital and churches.
When he was young, says Shadyac, "I was so shy I would hide when company came. I know that sounds impossible," he says with a laugh. Shy no more: Shadyac first met Shahati when he was president of the National Associations of Arab Americans (NAAA). "Shahati was very impressed with me."
He lists his bona fides, defending, explaining:
"Saw President Ford at the Danny Thomas Open. Very fine man."
"I do not 'report' to Shahati. We are co-equals. He's chairman of the Arab side (of Dialouges, Inc.), I am of the American side."
"My mother never had any stupid children and she didn't start with me."
"I know people all over the country. As a president and founder of the NAAA I had access to all levels of official Washington. I regularly met with Nixon, with Ford." The smile is rueful. "Just got a nice picture from brother Jimmy [Carter]."
The Arab connection is strong in Shadyac's professional life; he has many Arab clients both in real estate and banking. His work as a foreign agent for Libya "cannot be separated. It's all part of my day. Just as I get calls involving St. Jude. Everything is in the course of the day." His firm -- Metzger, Shadyac & Schwartz -- is "very heavily into banking" and of course, "extremely well known."
One partner, Robert Bloom, was acting comptroller of the currency "when Bert Lance got into all that flap." Another partner, Eugene Metzger, was part of the flap. He was one of the key Financial General Bankshares Inc. pshareholders who brought Bert Lance and a group of wealthy Arabs together, then sold out stock to them. The Securities and Exchange Commission accused Metzger, Lance and other businessmen of violating securities laws in connection with secret purchases of the stock. Two and half years, the Arabs are still negotiating to buy stock.
One of Shadyac's clients is former Virginia representative Joel Broyhill. "He is a dear friend." That's why, says Shadyac, he gave campaign contributions to John B. Connally, a friend of Broyhill's. And $1,000 to Republican Sen. James McClure because he is a "good guy." McClure is also from Idaho and went on one Libyan-paid trip to Tripoli. In exchange for the promise of millions of dollars in wheat purchases from Idaho farmers, the Libyans wanted C-130s. McClure came back converted and asked Carter to deliver the planes or give the Libyans their money back.
One conscious policy of Shadyac's Libyan agentry is to concentrate on politicians from such states as Idaho and Wyoming. His job is to "promote understanding," "I've said for years if the Arabs had any brains they'd concentrate on 35 to 40 states and forget the other 10. Naturally that would include California, Illinois and New York where there are large Zionist pressure groups. And if the Libyans are going to buy wheat, why not go to Middle America?"
Shadyac acknowledges that "I am the man everyone thinks has all the influence in the world in Libya" -- but he professes to know little about any of the alleged business dealings now surfacing:
American intelligence officials have stated that the Libyans have contemplated the "secret" use of secret payments and hope to use oil exports as leverage to gain possession of military aircraft they have purchased from the United States. The State Department has placed a ban on such exports to Qaddafi's Libya. "I have never talked to anyone about their attempts to get the C-130s, although I can see why they want them. They paid for them, says Shadyac. "I know of no 'covert' payments, don't know of any quid pro quo deals." He knows "nothing" about Billy Carter and Charter Oil. All he knows about Robert Vesco, the fugitive financer, and alleged attempts to secure the release of the controversial airplanes is "what I read in Jack Anderson's column." One target of the Libyan effort was Jesse Jackson's Operation Push, said some intelligence officials. "Sure we've invited him to be a participant in our November dialogue, but there's nothing illegal in that," says Shadyac.
"The libyans are trying hard to seek cooperation with any Americans and they keep getting kicked in the teeth."
To Shadyac, a $500,000 "loan" from Libya to Billy Carter is simply explained. "They're friends. The Libyans don't believe in loan documents. It's all just trust and friendship."
But trust and friendship in the foreign agent's world can be volatile commodities. Last Monday at 4 p.m., Tim Kraft, Carter's campaign manager, sat down with Shadyac at Jacqueline's Restaurant. Kraft ordered a Campari on the rocks; Shadyac had a vodka and tonic.
Shadyac pulls out his meticulous notes on the meeting. "There was one condition Kraft demanded [through an intermediary] . . . If we were unable to resolve the matter amicably, I was to deny that the meeting ever took place. I would not lie, but I did say I would not volunteer the fact that the meeting took place -- but if asked I would not deny it."
Kraft's version (with a laugh): "Actually I wanted to meet in an alley behind Sarsfield's at midnight. I didn't exactly want a news conference at the conclusion of a meeting with someone who feels aggrieved, and I said as much, but I didn't elicit a pledge of silence."
Shadyac told Kraft he was indeed agrieved. He had three conditions -- he demanded a public apology from Strauss, an acknowledgement that he had been named chairman and that he was staying on the campaign committee. "I told Kraft, "I'm being made out to be an idiot -- self-appointing myself to a committee that never even existed."
Kraft, according to Shadyac, "indicated there was no letter appointing me as chairman and asked me what I would do if he denied it." Indeed, there was no such letter in the vuluminous files, just a May 9 letter from Carter/Mondale director Franklin Lopez asking him to provide names of those who would be willing to help in the reelection campaign. This was followed by many letters from Shadyac to Stephen Aiello, director-of ethnic affairs at the White House, confirming that he agreed to serve as "chairman of the Arab/Americans." Aiello replied only on the phone, never in writing, says Shadyac. And on the phone, there were never any denials.
Kraft "admitted receiving an invitiation to that party at Pisces," said Shadyac. "I asked him why, at that time, four weeks ago, he had not protested about the non-existence of the committee. His only answer was, "That's a good question, Dick. I guess I dropped the ball.'"
Shadyac never got his apology and the White House says there is no Arab-American Committee and no chairman and insists it was all a misunderstanding.
Bill Baroody Sr., former aide to President Ford who enlisted Shadyac's aid in 1976, is one of many in Washington confused by the chain of events in what now seems to be a trivial matter to everyone save Shadyac. "Dick spoke about that chairmanship, even had interviews about it, with some substance. The White House version paints him as totally irresponisble.
That doesn't ring true to me."
But Kraft says, "As I told Shadyac, he could have been misled, possibly, but I added that he had not been particularly forthcoming as a registered agent of a foreign country and that maybe there was a lack of candor and missed cues on both sides."
Shadyac recalled, "He kept saying, 'You never told us you were an agent!' I told him it was all in the record and assumed they had checked me out. My life is an open book."
Kraft said, with an aide listening in on the phone, that when Kraft received his invitation to the Pisces party, "It was my first inkling things were getting out of hand." Nothing was done because "Aiello demurred that the invitations had already been sent out." In light of all the flap, Kraft said. "I guess we'll have to clean up our act."
Kraft chuckled throughout the conversation but it was no laughing matter to Shadyasc who still wears his gold Jimmy Carter peanut on his lapel.
In the end, Shadyac remains glad he had the grand party, but mad at the "flunkies," as he once called Strauss and company, not at Carter. "I'm committed to his reelection and urge all my friends to work for him -- even though they are appalled at my shabby treatment."
Shadyac cannot let go of the view that pro-Israeli groups zapped him. "The Jewish Community can't stand to have an Arab-American near the White House.
"They want the White House to be 100 percent kosher."