A LETTER we print today from former HEW
secretary Robert Finch expresses keen anger at our 10th-anniversary celebration of the closing of a campaign loophole. In that editorial, we recounted some of the fund-raising adventures of Maurice Stans that would not be allowable under the revised law.
Mr. Finch believes we were unfair to Mr. Stans. But he does not dispute that Mr. Stans supervised and participated in a systematic effort to persuade leading executives of many large corporations to make contributions of $50,000 and $100,000 before April 7, 1972, when they did not have to be reported. (They did after that date.) The amounts asked were high--beyond the ordinary personal resources of even most corporate executives. Some of the corporations--airlines, a shipbuilding firm, oil companies--were highly dependent on government decisions, and their executives later said that they felt themselves to be under great pressure to contribute lest, in the words of one oil executive, they find their companies "on an administration blacklist."
It is not surprising that some of the contributions made in response to these solicitations were made, illegally, from corporate funds. We continue to believe that, as we said in our anniversary meditation, "in the Washington of 10 years ago, there was the smell of government for sale."
Mr. Finch is correct in saying that a disclosure of pre-April 7 Nixon contributors was made, in late 1973. But Mr. Stans had stoutly resisted disclosure throughout the 1972 campaign and the early 1973 Watergate investigations, and disclosure was made ultimately as part of a settlement of a lawsuit brought by Common Cause.
Mr. Finch charges that we "went far afield" in what he considers an attempt to injure Mr. Stans' reputation. That seems a little odd, since we did not even mention that Mr. Stans pleaded guilty in 1975 to misdemeanor violations of the campaign finance laws and was fined $5,000. We continue to believe that there are better ways to do "the difficult, nitty- gritty job of fund-raising."