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Profile: Murray Chotiner

Murray Chotiner was a participant or observer in the following events:

Murray Chotiner.Murray Chotiner. [Source: Spartacus Educational]During Richard Nixon’s campaign to represent his California district in the US House, his campaign manager, Murray Chotiner, arranges to have the Mafia raise money for Nixon. Los Angeles mob boss Mickey Cohen raises $75,000 for Nixon in return for unspecified political favors. Cohen will later claim that he raised the money on orders from one of his own bosses, Meyer Lansky. Cohen will sign a confession to the money raising while in Alcatraz Prison in 1962. Chotiner, embarrassed by the revelation, will drop out of politics until 1968, when he rejoins Nixon in his campaign for president (see November 5, 1968). After Nixon’s victory, Chotiner will be named a special counsel for Nixon, joining Nixon’s White House staff. (Spartacus Schoolnet 8/2007)

Lawrence O’Brien.Lawrence O’Brien. [Source: Public domain]President Nixon targets the new chairman of the Democratic National Committee, Lawrence O’Brien, for surveillance. Nixon worries about O’Brien, a canny political operative, and especially O’Brien’s ties to Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA), whom he believes to be by far the biggest threat to his re-election, even after Kennedy’s involvement in the Chappaquiddick tragedy (see July 18, 1969). Nixon orders his Chief of Staff, H. R. Haldeman, to have veteran campaign operative Murray Chotiner (see 1950) put together an “Operation O’Brien” to discredit the chairman. “Start with his income tax returns,” Nixon orders. (Reeves 2001, pp. 174-175)

George C. Wallace.George C. Wallace. [Source: Public domain]President Nixon is intent on knocking Alabama governor George Wallace, a segregationist Democrat, out of the 1972 elections. To that end, he has his personal lawyer, Herbert Kalmbach, ferry $100,000 in secret campaign funds (see December 1, 1969) to Alabama gubernatorial candidate Albert Brewer. Kalmbach delivers the money in the lobby of a New York City hotel, using the pseudonym “Mr. Jensen of Detroit.” Through his chief of staff H. R. Haldeman, Nixon also orders an IRS investigation of Wallace. White House aide Murray Chotiner delivers the information gleaned from the IRS probe to investigative columnist Jack Anderson, who subsequently prints the information in his syndicated columns. When Brewer forces a runoff with Wallace in the May 5 primary elections, Kalmbach has another $330,000 delivered to Brewer’s campaign. Brewer’s aide Jim Bob Solomon takes the money, in $100 bills, to Brewer via a flight from Los Angeles to Alabama; Solomon is so worried about the money being discovered in the event of a plane crash that he pins a note to his underwear saying that the money is not his, and he is delivering it on behalf of the president. Wallace, calling Brewer “the candidate of 300,000 n_ggers,” wins the runoff despite the massive cash infusions from the White House. (Reeves 2001, pp. 228-229)

President Nixon has an Oval Office meeting with a number of White House aides, including chief of staff H. R. Haldeman, Murray Chotiner, and Donald Rumsfeld. Part of the meeting concerns the dissemination of secret campaign funds to a variety of campaigns with candidates considered friendly to the Nixon administration (see December 1, 1969). (Reeves 2001, pp. 245)

Nixon at AMPI rally and convention, September 3, 1971Nixon at AMPI rally and convention, September 3, 1971 [Source: George Mason University]President Nixon meets with members of a farmer’s cooperative, Associated Milk Producers, Inc (AMPI). Nixon and his staff members have secretly colluded with AMPI members to artificially drive up the price of milk in return for $2 million in campaign contributions for Nixon’s 1972 re-election. (Ironically, in 1968, AMPI had supported Democratic candidate Hubert Humphrey, but they now want access to Nixon, and retained former Nixon aide Murray Chotiner as soon as Chotiner left the White House.) In 1969 and 1970, AMPI officials delivered $235,000 to Nixon’s personal lawyer, Herbert Kalmbach, for use in the Townhouse Project (see Early 1970) and other secret campaign operations. AMPI officials agree to government subsidies that will drive the price of milk up to $4.92 per hundredweight after politely listening to Nixon’s ideas of marketing milk as a sedative: “If you get people thinking that a glass of milk is going to make them sleep, I mean, it’ll do just as well as a sleeping pill. It’s all in the head.” Nixon heads off specific discussions of how AMPI money will be delivered, warning: “Don’t say that while I’m sitting here. Matter of fact, the room’s not tapped. Forgot to do that” (see February 1971). After the meeting, Nixon’s aides calculate that the deal will cost the government about $100 million. White House aide John Ehrlichman says as he leaves Nixon’s office: “Better get a glass of milk. Drink it while it’s cheap.” That evening, Chotiner and the president of AMPI, Harold Nelson, transfer the $2 million to Kalmbach in a Washington hotel room. (Reeves 2001, pp. 309)

Washington Post reporter Carl Bernstein asks a former Nixon administration official about some of the White House officials who may have connections to the Watergate burglary (see 2:30 a.m.June 17, 1972). Bernstein notes that the Nixon presidential campaign committee (CREEP) has identified its personnel director, Robert Odle, as the man who hired Watergate burglar and CREEP security director James McCord (see June 19, 1972). “That’s bullsh_t,” the official retorts. “[Committee director John] Mitchell wouldn’t let go of a thing like that. Mitchell would decide, with advice from somebody who knew something about security.” Mitchell would almost certainly have brought in at least one more aide, Frederick LaRue (see March 20, 1971), Mitchell’s right-hand man. “I would expect that if any wiretaps were active up to the time of the break-in, LaRue would have known about them,” the former official tells Bernstein. A Republican National Committee member tells Bernstein that McCord has, contrary to a statement by RNC chairman Bob Dole, never done any security work for the RNC. “All they care about at CREEP is Richard M. Nixon,” the RNC official says with some bitterness. “They couldn’t care less about the Republican Party. Given the chance, they would wreck it.” The RNC official says he and Dole had discussed the likelihood of White House involvement in the Watergate burglary, and they both believed that it was likely managed by “one of those twenty-five cent generals hanging around the committee or the White House who was responsible. [Murray] Chotiner or [Charles] Colson. Those were the names thrown out.” (Chotiner, well-known for his low-road brand of politics—see 1950—will never be proven to have had any involvement in the Watergate conspiracy.) (Bernstein and Woodward 1974, pp. 28-29)


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