I’ll Take My Stans

The Terrors of Justice: The Untold Side of Watergate

by Maurice H. Stans
Everest House, 478 pp., $10.95

Maurice Stans
Maurice Stans; drawing by David Levine

Whatever Maurice Stans, Nixon’s top fund raiser, may or may not have been guilty of in the Watergate campaign of 1972, he certainly should be jailed for writing this book. It is a literary felony, the primary overt act in a conspiracy to obstruct the printed word. At the least, the editors and executives at Everest House, the publishers of this chaotically dull, 478-page work of angry, apologetic confusion, should be named unindicted co-conspirators in this sinister effort to get those few left who read to switch to television.

Still, Maurice Stans is such an important figure that someday his role in the politics of Nixon’s campaigns may be regarded as more worthy of study than that of Haldeman or Mitchell. Students of money and elections, like Herbert E. Alexander of the Citizens Research Foundation, have long since considered Stans much more than a minor member of the Nixon entourage who pleaded guilty to five misdemeanor counts but managed to stay out of jail.

“The 1972 campaign, businessmen pointed out, had brought extraordinary pressures. It was the first campaign in memory, for example, in which solicitations were so widely made by so high a former official as Maurice Stans, who as Secretary of Commerce had close associations with many of the businessmen he was soliciting,” writes Alexander. “One might have to hearken back to the days of Mark Hanna and his systematic assessment of corporations for funds in support of William McKinley for a historic parallel; it was the Hanna approach, in fact, that led to the Tillman Act of 1907, the first federal law prohibiting corporate contributions.”1

The parallel goes even further in that it was the reaction to revelations about the Nixon campaign money machine that led to the recent federal campaign law which, while more sweeping than that of 1907, appears to be no more effective in preventing moneyed groups and individuals from controlling elections. Under the provisions of the new reform’ legislation corporations may legally solicit political contributions from their own management personnel in ways that would have been against the law in the past. Naturally the contributions extracted from junior and middle management must be voluntary, meaning upper management can’t come right out and say, “kick into the slush fund, or start looking for a future in some other organization.” But whether the new laws have increased corporate power to buy elections is questionable. Money always finds a way to express itself, so that, for example, the class background and personal wealth of the members of the US Senate haven’t changed from the early years of the century, when the Senate was referred to as a “millionaires’ club.”

However that may be, in post civil war history, only Hanna can rival Maurice Stans as a money raiser, but Hanna didn’t raise his dough for an incumbent president. In 1972, though not in 1968 when Stans…

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