The Los Angeles Times yesterday reopened the decade-old case of the Nixon townhouse slush fund in a lengthly report on the receipt of $106,000 from the illegal fund by GOP president hopeful George Bush.
The existence of the $3 million fund was first made public in 1970, and the list of dozens of prominent Republicans candidates -- including Bush -- who received donations from the fund was made public in the mid-1970s.
The essential facts in the Times report were printed in The Washington Post and other newspapers in 1976. They are that Bush received $106,000 -- $55,000 of it in cash -- from the secret fund, none of which was reports during his 1970 Senate Campaign in Texas. Campaign laws at the time did not require such detailed reporting.
However, the fund, operated out of a townhouse basement in downtown Washington, has been a politically sensitive issue in several Senate campaigns. The failure of former Maryland senator J. Glenn Beall to explain fully his connection to the fund, for example , was one of the factors in this 1976 defeat by Paul Sarbanes.
The way Bush handles the reopening of the issue thus becomes one of his first real tests under fire as a presidential candidate.
Bush declined immediate comment, the Los Angeles Times reported. In 1974, when Bush was under consideration for appointment as vice president by Gerald R. Ford, his former campaign officials denied that any unreported contributions had fueled his unsuccessful campaign against Sen. Lloyd Bentsen (D-Texas), the newspaper reported.
"There are absolutely, unequivocally no grounds for this report," one official was quoted as saying. "It makes me want to vomit."
The townhouse fund was set up as an undercover way to funnel illegal campaign contributions to Republican campaigns in 20 states. The recipients included a virtual "Who's Who" of the party, including current party chairman Bill Brock, who received $203,000, former interior secretary Thomas S. Kleppe, who received more than $200,000, and former congressman Clark McGregor of Minnesota.
Herbert W. Kalmbach, Nixon's personal lawyer, was chief fund-raiser for the operation. The money, Senate Wategate investigators later determined, came from three main sources: seven U.S. ambassadors, who donated a total of $55,000: wealthy individuals seeking ambassadorships, and large donors to Nixon's 1968 campaign, including Chicago insurance executive W. Clement Stone.