Kenneth H. Dahlberg died on October 9, 2011.
Why should you care?
Because without Kenneth Dahlberg, Nixon might not have become ensnared in the Watergate scandal and been forced to resign.
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Richard M. Nixon was sworn in as the 39th president of the United States on January 20, 1969. The very day of the inaugural, the Nixon campaign illegally hid $1.4 million in leftover funds from the 1968 presidential campaign for use as a "slush-fund" in the 1972 re-election campaign. The funds were to be used as a way of evading a new federal election law which would force candidates to reveal the sources of their donations. At the same time, the Nixon team set up the "Committee to Re-Elect the President" -- an organization whose unfortunate acronym was "CReEP."
Four months after he took office, Nixon began bugging his own staff. John Ehrlichman, his chief domestic policy advisor, began putting together a secret staff to destabilize the American democracy through a campaign of "dirty tricks," illegal bugging, illegal spying, the theft of documents, fire bombing of offices, and other practices. The aim was not only to undermine the candidacy of any Democrat who ran against Nixon, but also to destabilize a wide range of groups opposed to the Nixon administration's policies (domestic and foreign). In November 1970, Nixon hired Charles Colson, a Republican political operative from Massachusetts, as special White House counsel. Seven months later, Colson hired E. Howard Hunt, a former CIA agent, as a security consultant. That same month, a former New York City police officer hired by H.R. Haldeman, Nixon's chief of staff, proposed implementing the "dirty tricks" campaign. The plan was approved in July 1971, and Hunt began setting things in motion. He was assisted by G. Gordon Liddy, an attorney and former aide to Ehrlichman. Although the plan was scaled back numerous times, eventually Nixon, Haldeman, Ehrlichman, Colson, and others approved a plan to illegaly bug Democratic National Committee (DNC) headquarters.
In early 1972, Maurice Stans, Nixon's former Commerce Secretary and now finance chairman of CREEP, set up a money-laundering operation with a Mexican attorney named Manuel Ogarrio Daguerre. Stans encouraged Democrats, corporations (which were barred by law from donating to political campaigns), businessmen or labor leaders having regulatory problems, special-interest groups, and underground sources (such as the mafia, mob-dominated labor unions, casinos and others) to donate to the Nixon campaign before the new campaign finance law went into effect on April 7, 1972. The donations would be laundered through Mexico (where the bank records were beyond the reach of American subpoenas). Ogarrio would then write checks to the Nixon campaign in the proper amounts.
On April 7, 1972, Herb Kalmbach, Nixon's personal attorney, resigned as deputy finance chairman for CREEP. Federal election investigators had begun investigating Kalmbach for illegal campaign contributions, and he decided to resign rather than threaten Nixon's re-election bid.
On April 11, 1972, Nixon's Midwest finance chairman, Kenneth H. Dahlberg, received a cashier's check for $25,000. It was an illegal corporate campaign donation which should have been laundered through Mexico. Dahlberg turned it over to CREEP. It was never deposited in CREEP's accounts, but put into a "slush-fund" of cash and cashier's checks that was kept in a safe in Stans' office.
On May 28, 1972, Liddy and three Cuban-Americans broke into DNC headquarters and installed bugging equipment. The equipment failed to function properly, and a second operation was planned.
On June 17, 1972, five burglars -- Bernard Barker, Virgilio Gonzalez, Eugenio Martinez, James W. McCord and Frank Sturgis -- were arrested at 2:30 AM during a break-in at the DNC offices at the Watergate. On the morning of June 18, 1972, McCord admitted before a judge that he was a former CIA agent. Gonzalez and Martinez were anti-Castro Cubans living in Miami. Gonzales was a locksmith. Martinez worked for Barker's real estate agency. Sturgis was also a former CIA agent who had engaged in anti-Castro operations. The same day, Hunt removed $10,000 from a White House safe in order to pay lawyers to represent the five men. Notebooks carried by the burglars contained Hunt's name. Later that day, Nixon's legal counsel John Dean, Acting FBI Director L. Patrick Gray, and other staff obstructed justice by destroying the contents of Hunt's safe at the White House along with massive amounts of documents at CREEP. Nixon also ordered the Central Intelligence Agency to "hinder" the FBI's investigation of the break-in.
In early July 1972, Hugh Sloan, a former scheduling aide in the Nixon White House who had become CREEP's treasurer, resigned for personal reasons. Sloan had been pressured by his wife to leave after he revealed to her that CREEP was creating secret, illegal "slush funds" for use in political dirty-tricks campaigns. Shortly thereafter, the slush-fund was moved from Maurice Stans' office to the office of Fred LaRue. (LaRue was a former aide to Attorney General John Mitchell and was now Mitchell's chief aide at CREEP, overseeing the legal staff.) Stans approved the transfer of the fund to LaRue's office, as well as an $80,000 hush-money payment to the Watergate burglars. The same day, another $350,000 in CREEP funds was transferred from an Alexandria, Va., safe-deposit box and given to the burglars as hush-money.
On July 7, 1972, E. Howard Hunt turned himself in to the FBI. Walter O. Bittman, Hunt's attorney, received $25,000 in cash in a brown paper envelope in order to take the case.
On August 1, 1972, the Washington Post reported that a $25,000 cashier's check made out to the Nixon re-election campaign had been found in the bank account of Watergate burglar Bernard Barker.
Here's where it gets amazing...........
Dade County, Florida, district attorney Richard E. Gerstein was up for re-election. He was facing a tough primary opponent as well as a tough general election. When Gerstein learned that the Watergate burglary had involved citizens of Miami, he decided to investigate the burglars to "ensure that Florida law had not been broken." In fact, his investigation was a political stunt to boost his re-election chances.
Martin Dardis was Gerstein's chief investigator. As part of his investigation, Dardis had subpoenaed burglar Bernard Barker's bank account. In the account, Dardis not only found the cashier's check made out to Kenneth Dahlberg but also four other cashier's checks totaling $89,000. The four others were drawn on a Mexico City bank.
Washington Post reporter Carl Bernstein spoke to Dardis. Bernstein had learned of the Dardis investigation from an off-hand comment made by an FBI source, and decided to fly to Miami to see what the prosecutor had learned. Dardis told Bernstein of the existence of the check with Dahlberg's name on it, but admitted that he did not know who Dahlberg was. Checking the Post's library, Bernstein found that Dahlberg probably lived in Minnesota. Checking the Minneapolis phone book, Bernstein found Dahlberg's home phone number. Bernstein called Dahlberg and asked him why a cashier's check for $25,000 in his name would be in the bank of a Watergate burgler. Dahlberg said that he was Midwest finance chairman for the Nixon campaign, and had probably received the check as part of his fund-raising duties. He then told Bernstein that he turned all his money over to either John Mitchell or Maurice Stans at CREEP.
The Dahlberg admission was the first evidence anyone had that CREEP was linked to the Watergate break-in.
On August 16, 1972, CREEP chairman Clark MacGregor held a press conference in which he claimed G. Gordon Liddy had mis-used a $100,000 CREEP cash fund (designated for security at the GOP national convention) to fund the Watergate burglary.
On August 22, 1972, the Washington Post reported that the General Accounting Office (GAO), the investigative arm of the Congress and the agency charged with maintaining reports about federal campaign finances under the new campaign finance law, found that CREEP had mis-used at least $500,000 in campaign funds. The same day, Judge Charles Richey, who was presiding over the DNC's $1 million lawsuit case against CREEP, shocked court observers by sealing all the pretrial testimony in the case until the lawsuit had been decided. Judge Richey phoned Carl Bernstein later that night to adamantly deny that he had been approached by anyone from CREEP. Bernstein was dumbstruck; he had not called Judge Richey, and had never met him. Why the urgent need for denial?
On August 26, 1972, the Washington Post reported that the GAO had uncovered an additional $350,000 in illegal cash funds maintained by CREEP. The Post also reported on the Mexican money-laundering scheme set up by CREEP finance chairman Stans, and that more than $750,000 in additional money (raised exclusively in the Southwest) had also been laundered through Mexico.
On August 29, 1972, President Richard Nixon held his first press conference of the year. Nixon admitted that there had been "technical violations" of the new campaign finance law, but tried to divert attention from Watergate by claiming that the Democrats had also violated the law. Nixon also claimed that White House counsel John Dean had conducted an investigation into the Watergate matter ("the Dean report") and found that no one from the White House was involved. In fact, Dean had not discussed Watergate at all with the President, and had made no report. Dean's investigation had been designed to provide facts to support a cover-up and to protect Nixon's closest aides.
On August 30, 1972, the Washington Post reported on Nixon's press conference. The paper also reported that Watergate burglar Bernard Barker had told friends that "someone" was paying his legal bills. It was the first public acknowledgement that illegal cash payments were being made to the Watergate burglars.
The rest of the history of Watergate is well-known.
Dahlberg later started the Miracle-Ear Hearing Aid Company, which developed one of the first hearing aids to fit inside the ear canal. He sold the company in 1994 for $139 million.
Dahlberg wrote a letter to the New York Times in 1976 in which he said: "The revelations of Watergate were so repulsive that I am grateful for their exposure."
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Now here's a weird twist of fate:
Dahlberg was a pilot for the U.S. Army Air Corps during World War II. He was a triple ace (to be an ace, you have to shoot down at least five opponents). He was shot down and captured two times, escaping twice. In 1944, Dahlberg was shot down a third time during the Battle of the Bulge.
Martin Dardis was one of five G.I.s who rescued Dahlberg.
Dahlberg was the recipient of the Distinguished Service Cross, the Army's second-highest award for bravery. He never received notification of the award and so never picked up his medal. He finally learned about it in 1967, and was given the award by Vice President Hubert Humphrey.
It was the photo of Dahlberg receiving his medal that gave the Washington Post the lead on who Kenneth Dahlberg was.
In 1991, Dardis and his four comrades were awarded the Silver Star for their heroism in rescuing Dahlberg.