Return of the Secret Donors - Week in Review | NYTimes.com
By JILL ABRAMSON
Published: October 16, 2010
To old political hands, wise to the ways of candidates and money, 1972 was a watershed year. Richard M. Nixon’s re-election campaign was awash in cash, secretly donated by corporations and individuals.
President Richard M. Nixon
Fred Wertheimer, a longtime supporter of campaign finance regulation, was then a lawyer for Common Cause. He vividly recalls the weeks leading up to April 7, 1972, before a new campaign finance law went into effect requiring the disclosure of the names of individual donors. “Contributors,” he said, “were literally flying into Washington with satchels of cash.”
The Committee for the Re-Election of the President was also illegally hauling in many millions of dollars from corporations, many of which felt pressured into making contributions.
The record of donors was so tightly held that it was kept in a locked drawer by Rose Mary Woods, Nixon’s secretary. The list — which came to be known as “Rose Mary’s Baby” — wasn’t released until Mr. Wertheimer forced the issue through a lawsuit. Among those on the list were William Keeler, the chief executive of Phillips Petroleum, who pleaded guilty, during the post-Watergate prosecutions, to making an illegal corporate donation.
White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove, 2005-2007
Rose Mary’s Baby itself, now an artifact of the nation’s biggest political scandal, sits in the Watergate collection of the National Archives.