Former Senate aide Bobby Baker says he once secretly bought the rights to "Hail to the Redskins" and threatened to prevent any use of the song unless the Redskins dropped their opposition to a pro football franchise for Dallas.
In excerpts from his forthcoming book, "Wheeling and Dealing," Baker says he made the acquisition with $2,500 from Texas millionaire Clint Murchison Jr. as part of a campaign to put pressure on the Redskins' owner, the late George Preston Marshall.
The ploy against Marshall, "an old man and an old-fashioned racist" who regarded the entire South as the Redskins' natural territory, was successful, according to Baker, writing in Playboy for June with jouralist Larry L. King.
"Since Marshall's band was left with only Dixie as an alternate fight song, we got what we asked. The Murchisons, naturally, had provided the $2,500 to buy the song. Thus, for peanuts, they assured themselves of a franchise now probably worth $20,000,000" in Dallas, Baker says.
Baker, former protege of Lyndon Johnson and once secretary to the Senate majority, says he also paid $25,000 in cash to an aide to Estes Kefauver (D-Tenn.), then chairman of the Senate antitrust subcommittee, as part of the same campaign by Texas interests to expand the National Football League.
"I can't say that the staff man knew what the money was for, but I certainly knew it was for the purpose of the Kefauver subcommittee's finding that George Preston Marshall . . . held an illegal monopoly with his so-called Redskin Television Network," Baker writes. "This network profitably televised the Redskins games throughout the southern states."
Baker suggest that Kefauver would have been critical of Marshall's anticompetitive propensities in any case, "but with millions at stake, the Texans took no chances."
The Dallas Cowboys got their NFL franchise in 1960 after the 12 existing club owners voted 10-2 at a January meeting in Miami Beach to permit expansion by a 10-12ths majority instead of requiring unanimous consent. Marshall cast one of the two nay votes, but next day he turned around and voted in favor of expansion. "It was perfectly obvious I couldn't hold back the world with my hands so I went along," Marshall said at the time. He had been the most determined and vociferous holdout.
Murchison, chairman of the board of the Cowboys, could not be reached directly for comment, but a spokesman quoted the Texas millionaire as having said of the alleged $25,000 Senate payment: "It's not true. It's libelous."
There was no immediate reaction from Murchison, or the Cowboys, on the "Hail to the Redskins" episode, but the song's composer, Barnee Breeskin, confirmed much of it.
Except for broadcasting royalties, he said he sold rights to the music - Corinne Griffith Marshall, wife of the Redskins owner, had written the lyrics - to Baker and Baker's law partner, Ernest Tucker, around 1959 for the price Baker reported.
Now a Washington public relations man, Breeskin took exception to the book's recollection that he was "in financial straits at the time," but said he did sell the tune without being quite sure why Baker wanted it.
"I had a smelling of it," Breeskin said when asked if he knew Murchison was behind the transaction.
". . . Marshall, generally a shrewed businessman, had astonishingly neglected to buy" the song for the Redskins organization, Baker says. "You couldn't make that sort of a boo-boo when engaged in contest with the Murchisons."
Elaborating in a telephone interview, Baker said that Clint Murchison "paid me a legal fee and I paid Barnee.My tax records show it as income. It came in and went out."
Once the transaction was completed, even if only for the music and not the lyrics, Baker said with a chuckle, "we felt we could enjoin the Redskins from playing it." Referring to a key Redskins stockholder, he said, "I told Leo DeOrsey that we were going to get an injunction. Leo, he understood it."
Asked why Marshall ccouldn't simply have hired someone to write a new tune, Baker said: "It was a world-famous song. He was wedded to it."
When Marshall dropped his fight against the Dallas franchise, Baker said, he transferred the rights to the song back to the Redskins' DeOrsey - free of charge.
"That's Texas investment," Baker said with a laugh."Twenty-five hundred dollars for a $20 million franchise."
Of the alleged $25,000 cash payment, Baker asserted that it was made in the late 1950s when Kefauver was gearing up for a tough Senate race. He was re-elected in 1960s.
"Estes was very strong for making football more competitive," Baker said in the phone interview. "He was also engaged in the worst political battle of his life back home. He was desperate for money."
In the Playboy article, Baker said he was approached by a "courier," a man he knew as "a fellow reveler and high roller in Washington" who said that he had to "lock up that damn football franchise for Texas and I've been told to leave any stone unturned."
Baker said he arranged an appointment with Kefauver. "The next thing I knew," Baker writes, "the courier brought a briefcase into my office, handed it over, and said, 'There's $25,000 cash in there. Will you get it to a fellow named so-and-so?' And I did."
No names but Kefauver's were spelled out in the article, but Murchison denounced it through a spokesman as "untrue."
Other incidents cited by Baker, who was convicted on influence-peddling charges in another matter in 1967, touch on President Kennedy, Johnson and Eisenhower. According to Baker:
At Eisenhower's request, the late Sen. Everett M. Dirksen (R-Ill.) got President Kennedy personally to squelch a tax evasion indictment against a top Eisenhower White House aide.
Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy reportedly objected. But in Dirksen's prsence, according to Baker, the president hotly tole his brother he would have to resign if he didn't go along.
A few weeks later, at the president's behest, Baker writes, both Dirksen's and Eisenhower came out in favor of Kennedy's beleaguered nuclear arms limitation treaty, which they previously had opposed.
As vice president, Johnson persuaded Kennedy to find a distant federal job for a congressman with whose wife Johnson had reportedly been "cavorting." In turn, Baker writes, Johnson "loved to hear gossip of Kennedy's sexual escapades," once even calling Baker to the podium during a Senate debate to hear the latest story Baker had picked up on a visit to the White House.
"His eyes sparkled as I related the latest Kennedy tale," Baker recalls, "though he kept his face as carefully composed as though we were discussing the arms race with Russia."