Former Nixon fund-raiser Maurice H. Stans has the inside track to become U.S. ambassador to Sweden, according to well-informed Reagan administration sources.
One source said that Stans, who served as secretary of commerce under President Nixon and was finance chairman of his 1972 reelection campaign, had the backing of influential members of President Reagan's wealthy "kitchen cabinet." Another source said that Stans had been interviewed at the White House and was likely to be nominated for the ambassadorship, but that the recommendation had not yet been presented to Reagan.
After a 10-week trial in 1974, Stans was acquitted of conspiring to impede an investigation of fugitive financier Robert L. Vesco in exchange for a $200,000 contribution to the Nixon reelection campaign. Subsequently, Stans plead guilty to five misdemeanor violations of campaign spending laws and was fined $5,000.
The charges to which Stans pleaded were three counts of failing to report contributions totaling $150,000 to Nixon's 1972 reelection campaign, and two counts of unwittingly accepting the illegal corporate contributions.
Stans, 73, may be best remembered for his testimony before the Senate Watergate committee in 1973, which he concluded with a plea to "give me back my good name."
Subsequently, he wrote a book about his experiences, "The Terrors of Justice: The Untold Story of Watergate," in which he criticized the committee, the Justice Department and the press for being overzealous.
Stans is a millionaire certified public accountant who spent his vacations on nine big-game hunting safaris to Africa and one to India. As secretary of commerce, he was a promoter of the black-owned Harambee House Hotel in Washington, which recently was purchased by Howard University.
Among some of the wealthy corporation executives from whom Stans raised funds there is a widespread feeling, shared by some members of the administration, that Stans was unfairly victimized by the Watergate investigation and the press because of his personal loyalty to Richard M. Nixon and his position as chief Nixon fund-raiser.
But there also is concern at the Reagan White House that naming Stans would provoke a battle over his Senate confirmation and raise the Watergate issue at a time the administration is trying to focus attention on its economic program.
If nominated and confirmed, Stans would become the latest of several former Nixon administration figures to gain posts in the Reagan administration. But he almost certainly would not be the last.
Senior West German figures said that Arthur Burns, a top aide early in the Nixon administration and later chairman of the Federal Reserve Board, is a leading candidate to become U.S. ambassador to West Germany.